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Army aims to reduce greenhouse gases, 'carbon bootprint'

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 06, 2009) -- The Army has embarked on a service-wide effort to measure its "carbon bootprint," with the aim of reducing the effect it has on the environment while at the same time optimizing its use of fossil fuels.

The Army recently completed a proof-of-concept study at 12 installations to measure the amount of greenhouse gases it puts into the environment as a result of its activities. The total amount of gasses put into the environment by an organization constitutes its "carbon footprint."

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The study looked at emissions that included water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons. The most predominate of those emissions are carbon dioxide and then methane, said Tad Davis, the deputy undersecretary of the Army for environment, safety, and occupational health.

The greenhouse gas proof-of-concept study was conducted at Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Letterkenny Army Depot, Pa.; Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Stewart, Ga., said Davis.

"It's a crosswalk of different kinds of installations in the Army," Davis said.

From that proof of concept, the Army has kicked off a series of similar studies at all Army installations. Those studies categorize the greenhouse gasses produced by the activities of an installation into three "scopes," Davis said.

Emissions of buildings, on-post generators, tactical vehicles including tanks and helicopters, and non-tactical vehicles, including privately owned vehicles and government vehicles are included in Scope 1, Davis said.

Scope 2 includes greenhouse gas emissions that are the result of energy used on an installation but produced off the installation.

"The vast majority of energy that we use on our installations is actually produced through hydro sources, through coal-fired steam generation ... then turned into electricity," he said. "Scope 2 is that off-post-produced electricity that is consumed on the installation."

Finally, Scope 3 measures emissions from contractor-related activities on an installation and also emissions related to things like employee travel. For a Soldier traveling on temporary duty, for instance, the Army would calculate the greenhouse gas emissions generated by his travel.

In the proof-of-concept study completed at Fort Carson, results showed more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions calculated are Scope 2 emissions -- emissions that are the result of off-installation-generated power.

Scope 1 emissions totaled about 41 percent and Scope 3 emissions accounted for about 7 percent of the emissions at Carson. Numbers at Fort Benning were similar, he said.

The numbers from the first 12 installations measured, along with numbers from the remainder of installations in the continental United States and its territories -- which are expected to be complete in May -- will be used to find ways for the Army to optimize its energy use and reduce those emissions, Davis said.

"We are going to look at what are the correlations and how we can achieve reduction of greenhouse gasses through implementation of our energy program," he said.

The Bush administration put into place a directive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 30 percent by 2015, Davis said. And the Army is working to meet that goal -- though he said the service remains mindful that the current administration could change the goal or the target date.

Reducing the amount of carbon the Army puts into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels will require a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, Davis said. That can be accomplished by finding non-fossil-fuel sources of energy to power the Army mission and also by making more efficient those parts of the mission that will continue to rely on fossil fuels.

A reduction in fuel use also results in decreased mission cost to the Army and in increased safety for Soldiers, Davis said.

"If we are able to reduce the amount of energy consumed, then that is going to probably reduce the amount of fuel that is going to be used -- in the case of the forward deployed forces, we are able to reduce the convoys and the resupply which is one of the primary targets of a lot of the IEDs and ambushes taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan," Davis said.

Reduction in energy use, and subsequent reduction in greenhouse gases can come from finding new sources of energy and also by reducing the energy the Army uses through efficiency.

At Fort Carson, for instance, the Army partnered with a local energy provider to do an enhanced-use lease there. The energy provider built a photovoltaic solar array on top of a closed landfill. That site now provides energy to some 540 homes, Davis said.

"That's a very visible way we can address looking at more renewable sources of energy verses the non-renewable sources which produce greenhouse gasses," Davis said.

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