Air Force, U.S. (Global Warming)

The u.s. air Force began as the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. This division was established on August 1, 1907, to manage air machines, military ballooning, and other military matters of the air. Since then, the Air Force has become an institution independent of the U.S. Army, and with its vast increase in size and fuel usage has a considerable effect on the environment. The U.S. Air Force is conscious of greenhouse gas emissions and their potential link to global warming. For example, the Air Force voluntarily purchased over one billion kilowatt-hours of green energy in 2006: 39 percent biomass, 38 percent wind, 16 percent geothermal, and 7 percent other. The power was purchased from several sources, including American Electric Power, Rocky Mountain Generation Cooperative, and Sterling Planet.

The estimated quantity of emissions spared via the green energy is equal to the emissions of just over 250,000 cars annually. This purchase led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to name the Air Force the leading green energy purchaser in the United States in 2006. By July 2007, the Air Force had fallen to the number five position, behind PepsiCo, Wells Fargo & Company, Whole Foods Market, and The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. The Air Force had purchased nearly .5 billion kilowatt-hours of green energy, which supplied only 4 percent of its total electricity needs. Other renewable purchases and on-base renewable energy generation raised that percentage to nearly 10 percent. The Air Force is also on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Top Ten Federal Government Green Power Partners list, in the highest position for three years in a row: 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Another facet of environmental protection pivotal to the Air Force is cleaning and restoring the environment surrounding Air Force Bases, especially during closings or realignments. A special office that helps to manage these issues is the U.S. Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (AFCEE). The AFCEE is headquartered at Brooks City-Base, San Antonio, Texas. It is an Air Force Civil Engineer field-operating agency, created in 1991 in response to a need for assistance to Air Force commanders when establishing environmental or construction programs. Several rearrangements of the organization and offices have taken place since 1991; however, the vision and purpose of the AFCEE has remained the same. According to its mission statement, "AFCEE provides a complete range of technical and professional services in environmental and installation planning and engineering, and military housing construction and privatization." Within one year, the AFCEE base was managing numerous environmental clean-ups, specifically those needed after a sweep of closures and realignments of many bases.

Because there are many leading environmental engineers and green construction experts who are not in the Air Force, the AFCEE employs both civilians and military personnel in dealing with the environment and construction management. As of 2007, approximately 300 civilians and 50 military personnel belonged to the AFCEE. These members included contractors around the nation. A civilian director, assisted by an executive director, manages the AFCEE. The civilian director is a member of the senior executive service, while the executive director is a colonel in the Air Force. In addition, the executive director acts as commander of the military personnel at the AFCEE. Four support directorates assist the AFCEE in the spectra of Contracting, Mission Support, Operations & Development, and Staff Judge Advocate (Legal). Additionally, AFCEE directors manage four business line directorates: Installation and Support Worldwide, Installation and Support for Air Force-related Matters, Housing, and Base Conversion. Finally, there is a technical directorate and three regional offices for the environment. These offices are located in Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and San Francisco, California.

An additional step made by the Air Force to reduce fuel usage is the purchase of flight simulators to reduce the fuel requirements of training. Novel technology is also being used to better align fuel (and thus weight) carried with fuel needed per flight. Streamlining fuel weight to just the amount needed will reduce fuel usage overall, as a lighter plane uses less fuel per unit of distance and speed. While these changes were for the sole purpose of saving money on fuel and, thus, using tax dollars more efficiently, the reduced burning of fuel also has a positive impact on the environment.

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