by MSG Anthony R. Shaw, US Army
Climate change is a real and present danger to the global operational environment. Decades of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) contributed to increasing concentrations of GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere and resulted in the global warming effect. As concentration levels within the atmosphere rise, the greenhouse effect traps heat in the atmosphere and prevents heat dissipation to space. Rising temperatures because of excessive GHG emissions lead to global climate changes.
Extreme weather occurs more frequently and with increasing intensity as global temperatures rise. Unpredictable weather occurrences, rising temperatures, melting polar ice caps, and shifting precipitation patterns pose humanitarian aid, disaster response, and global military operation hazards. In response to Presidential executive orders, the United States (U.S.) Army developed a climate strategy and implementation plan that identified strategic goals to offset service emissions, add environmental efficiencies to acquisition, and train the future force in operational climate change challenges (Department of the Army [DA], 2022).
The Army climate strategy (ACS) takes monumental steps toward force electrification, acquisition of new and emerging technologies, and climate change risk mitigation. Despite the ambitious, and long overdue measures identified within the ACS, it does not address the Army legacy equipment and associated emissions that are exempt under federal law. As the largest military branch, the U.S. Army’s federal emission exemption exacerbates military pollution rates on a global scale. The Army’s climate strategy addresses the service’s need to mitigate future environmental pollution risks through modernization; however, the implementation timeline fails to address federal military emission exemptions and integrate biofuels through emerging technology as sustainable solutions.
Climate Strategy and Implementation
The Biden administration identified climate change as an existential threat to the American way of life and incorporated it as an integral part of the National Security Strategy (NSS) (White House, 2022). Although the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy remain classified, Secretary of the Army (SECARMY), Christine Wormuth, proactively developed the ACS in support of the NSS and set Army initiatives into action. Nested in strategic guidance, the ACS and implementation plan is the first-ever climate change strategy developed by a U.S. military service. Beginning with a five-year window, the ACS focuses on three lines of effort designed to address GHG emissions: identify and incorporate new and emerging technology that offsets installations’ carbon footprints,’ integrate equipment electrification, and train new generations of Soldiers to continue efforts toward mitigating climate change effects.
Through the ACS, the SECARMY acknowledges the Army’s role in combatting climate change and considers GHG emissions as the Army’s leading contribution to the global climate issue. Presently, Army installations use electricity from commercial utility grids that generate power derived from fossil fuel-based energy sources. During 2020, the Army used electricity generated through fossil fuels and accounted for over 4.1 million metric tons of GHGs released into the atmosphere (DA, 2022). Aiming to acquire 100% carbon-pollution-free electricity by 2030, the Army’s development of electric micro-grids provides installations with a means of self-generating and storing power. Electric self-sustainability enables installations to continue vital missions during power outages caused by the effects of shifting weather patterns and supports federal clean energy requirements established within Executive Order 14057 (White House, 2021).
Fossil fuel-burning vehicles contribute significantly to global GHG pollution and comprise a significant portion of the Army’s tactical equipment fleet. To offset emissions, the ACS set the year 2030 as the deadline for initial hybrid-technology kit implementation in tactical equipment that presently employs diesel-fueled engines as the primary means of power (DA, 2022). The idea is to rapidly develop small-scale energy storage solutions that are similar to commercial hybrid technology, but with larger capacity and more resilient to changing OE conditions. Targeted tactical vehicle electrification kit (TVEK) fielding, scheduled to occur in fiscal year 2027, will provide essential technology effectiveness testing for full force fielding. Effective integration of tactical equipment electrification ultimately reduces GHG emissions; however, requires mature technologies that do not currently exist for large-scale sustainability.
Part 1068 to Title 40 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) exempts military equipment, used for national defense purposes, from federal emissions control equipment requirements (Protection of Environment, 2022). While national defense serves as the overarching justification permitting the exemption, the primary reason deals more with the limited availability of ultra-low sulfur (ULS) fuels outside of the Continental United States (CONUS). The lack of global ULS fuel availability now holds less weight with the implementation of a single fuel for U.S. military equipment and Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. The common use of jet propellent (JP) number 24 amongst services and allies greatly reduces logistical concerns inherent in global joint operations, but no longer maintains substantial advantages when compared to alternative fuel availability within the CONUS. According to the International Energy Agency (n.d.), global production of biofuels is set to increase by over 26% between 2022 and 2026 as more facilities come online, and petroleum-based diesel fuel demands increase due to the Russia and Ukraine conflict. Increased global biofuel availability and logistical instability of petroleum-based fuels, set conditions for biofuel integration and emissions control technology integration within the U.S. Army.
Implementation Timeline Gaps
The ACS implementation timeline focuses on equipment electrification by 2050 but does not address immediate GHG emission concerns for military equipment that operates on internal combustion engines (ICE). The focus on future electrification presents a significant gap in the implementation timeline and allows for significant Army ICE emissions pollution during the developmental period. According to Neta Crawford (2019), a study of Department of Defense (DOD) fuel use clearly places military services as the largest global consumer of fossil fuel energy with emissions higher than some industrialized countries. Such large CO2 emissions certainly compound the greenhouse effect and directly contradict the emissions reduction goals established in the ACS. Furthermore, the ACS does not consider CONUS-based equipment emissions and fuel efficiency as it relates to the Army single fuel concept. Finally, federal emission exemptions authorized military vehicle production without installed emissions control equipment which leads to significant pollution versus commercial sector pollution rates.
CONUS Fuel and Emissions
As the largest service within the DOD, the Army is in a transformational period with emerging fuel and emissions technologies driving rapid change that has the potential to offset service emission levels. From tanks to tactical trucks, all Army tactical ground equipment operates on JP-24 as the primary fuel for CONUS-based equipment (DA, 2022). This doctrine-based single-fuel approach saves the Army considerable resources as compared to using multiple fuels throughout the service; however, does little for CONUS-based equipment emissions mitigation. With nearly 60 bases across America, the Army’s requirement for training readiness and vehicle proficiency necessitates consistent vehicle operation. For example, fourteen M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles conducting one-day training exercises in rough terrain require an estimated 2,330 gallons of fuel (Coryell & Johnson, 2016). One-day fuel consumption rates dramatically increase whenever the Army conducts training.
The compounding effect of associated emissions occurring simultaneously at Army installations and relatively poor fuel consumption rates significantly accumulate over short periods of time. Fuel efficiency rates and fuel sources matter far more than the ease of logistical coordination for a garrison-based Army. Integration of biofuels in the commercial sector provides proven examples of effective biodiesel blending through readily available sources that reduce emissions and decrease consumption rates (Ciolkosz, D, 2016). Extensive fuel consumption produces larger quantities of GHG emissions regardless of the fuel type, and the absence of emissions control equipment on tactical vehicles further exacerbates CONUS pollution rates.
Emissions Control Equipment
Commercial emissions control equipment such as diesel catalyst systems and diesel particulate filters (DPF) are commonplace in the private sector. As a post-engine exhaust filtration system, diesel catalysts convert harmful emissions into harmless byproducts for both humans and the environment. Increasing efficiency, DPFs operate by trapping soot particles in honeycomb filters and converting trapped particles to ash through heat or chemical reactions (Universal Technical Institute, n.d.). The lack of emissions control systems for CONUS-based tactical equipment presents an opportunity for the integration of mature commercial sector technology and supports the ACS GHG reduction goal.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is most concerned with nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions due to the gas’ long lifetime, weather resistance, and negative health effects. According to the EPA (1999), automobile and mobile transportation-borne NOx emissions accounted for 50% of the total NOx emissions for 1999. Of note, this EPA study only accounted for private and commercial modes of transportation with ICE and emissions control equipment installed. Furthermore, an EPA study found that commercial vehicles operating catalyst systems and DPFs reduced NOx emissions by up to 30% over unequipped vehicles (1996). While federal law exempts military equipment from emissions standards, the case is very clear that CONUS-based Army equipment requires exhaust catalysts and DPFs to augment biofuels and reduce emissions.
Emissions technology for military equipment is both a policy and materiel issue that exists at the national level and Army service level. Changes to Title 40, C.F.R requires congressional approval, whereas changes to Army policy governing the implementation of emissions control equipment do not. The wide availability of commercial emissions control equipment meets established EPA emission requirements and fits squarely into DOD policy changes and the materiel acquisition process. Army leaders have an opportunity to leverage proven commercial biofuel and emissions technologies integration through proactive policy changes that facilitate cleaner air within the CONUS and move the force closer to reduced environmental GHG pollution rates.
The Army should revise existing policies regarding blended biofuel use in tactical equipment to offset equipment emissions during the transitory years from ICE to electrification. This solution acknowledges global fuel logistical concerns and specifically targets CONUS-based equipment to reduce emissions within the homeland. Army Regulation 70-12 requires all CONUS-based equipment to operate on JP-24 as the primary fuel and does not allow the blending of fuel types except for standard petroleum diesel (DA, 2022). A single-fuel approach does not take advantage of emissions benefits associated with commercially available biofuel blends and additives. Leveraging processes within the Army force management model provides the framework for changes to the existing policies that are necessary for biofuel use in tactical vehicles.
The reduced cost of biofuels, at $2.87 per gallon, as compared to JP-8/24 at $2.96 per gallon, decreases annual defense budgets, and requires fund reallocation to biofuel contracts for implementation (McCusker, 2019). What appears as marginal savings, quickly compounds into significant savings through a fuel policy adjustment. A .9 cents per gallon savings applied to a 175-gallon fuel tank for an estimated 6,000 M2 Bradley fighting vehicles for a one-year period, provides the Army an estimated $34 million savings. Acquisition contracts will need revision for potential changes to suppliers; however, the logistical framework already exists through Defense Logistics Agency. Manufacturers blend biofuels with diesel at varying rates depending on performance and emissions requirements. The most common blend within the United States is B-20 which is a 20% blend of biofuel and petroleum diesel. Many commercial transportation companies use B-20 fuels within semi-fleets due to national availability and EPA-certified use in combustion engines. In addition to producing 10-20% less GHG emissions, biofuels also reduce engine wear and act as solvent cleaners within the engine (Department of Energy, 2011). While the policy change authorizing blended biofuels reduces fuel prices and emissions; the addition of emissions control equipment further reduces overall emissions.
Materiel solutions come in the form of integrating existing commercial emissions control equipment onto CONUS-based vehicles. Equipment capability gaps enter the Army capabilities integration and development system as an urgent need due to the ACS oversight of interim fossil fuel burning equipment (U.S. Army War College [USAWC], 2021). The ACS oversight spans a 28-year period from strategy implementation to full-force electrification. This solution also focuses primarily on tactical vehicles and acknowledges tank and Stryker chassis space limitations. Integrating emissions control equipment onto existing chassis’ presents mounting space challenges and potential for additional financial obligations due to equipment types and purposes. Additionally, this solution serves a supporting role in integrating blended biofuels across the total Army force. The present Army peacetime footing and CONUS-based training environments serve as the perfect opportunity for emissions control equipment integration that further reduces tactical equipment emissions.
This urgent requirement does not directly support preparations for imminent conflict; however, it does relate to the critical mission failure of not implementing immediate emissions mitigations for existing equipment (USAWC, 2021). No new Army structures or organizations need be created, but Soldiers may require new equipment training as fielded technology reaches the force. Emissions control equipment requires skilled installation and calibration that most unit-level maintenance shops cannot provide. The most reasonable choice for emissions control equipment integration resides at sustainment-level maintenance shops and depots (DA, 2019). A phased approach that cycles tactical vehicles through sustainment-level installation shops prevents unit equipment downtime and supports training readiness requirements.
According to an International Council on Clean Transportation white paper (2019), individual catalyst systems and DPF installation costs on average between $3,500 to $5,000. Total costs add up quickly with estimating the Army tactical vehicle arsenal is around 220,000 vehicles, which equates to over a $1 billion emissions control equipment installation expense. In comparison, the Army awarded a hybrid drive research contract worth $32 million to BAE Systems for the development of one functional hybrid M2 Bradly Fighting Vehicle (Niswonger, n.d.). Initial costs present a significant financial requirement to budget planning and acquisition discussions but pale in comparison to estimated total costs for a full-force fielding of hybrid Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The revenue saved from the switch to biofuel use more than offsets emissions control equipment installation costs on tactical vehicles. Immediate emissions control equipment implementation on tactical vehicles reduces GHG emissions that otherwise would skyrocket over the 28 years before full-force electrification.
The Army’s Climate Strategy addressed environmental pollution risks through force electrification, but ignored equipment emissions pollution early in the implementation timeline and failed to integrate biofuels through emerging technology as sustainable solutions. Rising global temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, and melting polar ice caps dramatically affect global operational environments. Presidential focus on climate change effects drove the ACS development and steered service initiatives toward climate-positive force modernization. Widely available commercial biofuels offset emissions and reduce fossil fuel dependence, especially when coupled with proven emission-control system technologies that significantly reduce GHG emissions. This proposed solution poses force management and acquisitions challenges through policy updates and potential increased budget requests; however, effectively closes critical emission oversights early in the ACS implementation timeline.
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