Tag Archives: Politics

Cleantech saves soldiers’ lives

Apr 26, 2011 11:39 PM

The military is the one area where government spending on R&D is tolerated by the GOP. Republicans tried to gut the Department of Energy’s hugely successful ARPA-E program during the last budget fight, but left DoD’s DARPA virtually untouched. But Defense is picking up the slack by demonstrating a practical application of clean energy: to fight and win wars!

It’s fantastic to see the military take the lead on this when the rest of us in the clean energy space have had such difficulty. Using energy innovation to save the lives of American servicemen – that’s a proposition the Grand Oil Party can’t argue with.

Takeaways –

1.   One soldier is wounded or killed for every 50 convoys transporting fuel.

2. The U.S. military uses more energy than two-thirds of the world’s nations.

3. The military has demonstrated that clean energy can fully power the world’s most demanding endeavors. Three bases in Afghanistan run almost entirely on solar power.

The military has a history of technological innovation that has huge carry-on benefits for civilian uses (see the INTERNET, microwave etc.). Let’s hope their leadership on clean energy is a harbinger of broader acceptance stateside.


DoD official: Clean tech saves lives

By Darius Dixon

4/26/11 1:49 PM EDT

Clean energy development is a race to the battlefield as much as to the marketplace, a top Defense Department official said Tuesday.

Case in point: U.S. soldiers fighting in Afghanistan during routine patrols carry about 18 pounds of batteries apiece for radios and other equipment. That’s a burden they shouldn’t have to bear, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III said during a White House panel discussion on energy security.

New energy technology and efficiency save lives along vulnerable U.S. supply lines by reducing fuel shipments that are prone to insurgents’ ambushes or bombing attacks, he said.

“More than 70 percent of the convoys in Afghanistan are used just for fuel or water,” Lynn said, adding that more than 3,000 troops and contractors have been killed or wounded protecting those types of convoys.

And the Pentagon’s $15 billion annual energy bill, one that “consumes more energy than is used by two-thirds of all the nations on earth,” is largely dependent on foreign sources, Lynn said.

Last year, the Pentagon and the Energy Department entered into a partnership to promote energy efficiency and clean technology throughout the U.S. military.

“Clean energy technology is one way to lighten the load and give our troops more capability,” Lynn said. He said marines in Afghanistan started deploying solar panels in Helmand Province last fall so that two bases in the region now run completely on solar power and a third cut its consumption of diesel fuel by more than 90 percent.

The deployment of flexible solar panels, he added, reduced soldiers’ need for battery resupply on extended missions.

Read the rest at Politico Pro (subscription required).

Wilfred Codrington — A Bipartisan Delusion: Unclogging the Pipe Dreams of an Independent FEC

The following is a guest post by Wilfred Codrington, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington D.C. Wilfred is a graduate of Stanford Law School, Brown University, and has an MPA from the University of Pennsylvania.

The biggest fairy tale told on Capitol Hill? “The American people want a bipartisan _______” (solution, budget, commission–you fill in the blank). Any way you complete the phrase, it is uncertain that they do. In fact, I would posit that the only people who want a bipartisan anything are lawmakers in the minority party (which is really to say that the phrase is nothing more than political messaging from a frustrated and banished caucus). I would go further to wager that the American people would prioritize other values over bipartisanship, namely independence and action.

Look at the Federal Election Commission, for instance, the board charged with enforcing the Federal Election Campaign Act (i.e. federal election laws). Bipartisan? Certainly. Federal election law clearly specifies that no more than three of the six commissioners can come from a single party. Independent? Sorta. The FEC is independent in the sense that its members can exercise their own judgment without the fear of being sacked. While the President appoints commissioners (and the Senate confirms them), they can only be removed for cause. But this narrow definition of independence neglects (at least) two elements of a true conception of independence: structural independence and political independence.

Structural independence takes into account the functions of the commission. It essentially asks: how separate is the commission from, well, itself? As a regulatory agency, the FEC wears three hats–(sub)legislator, (sub)executive, and (sub)arbiter. In its first role, the body adopts regulations, i.e. actual laws, that make sense of the vague statutes enacted at the Congressional level. In its other roles, the commission enforces and interprets those very same regulations. This model is tantamount to having a single entity serve as the Congress, the President, and the Court–with limited subject matter jurisdiction, of course. Can you imagine such a Leviathan? In no other instance would the American people want to conflate these roles and, in fact, it was one of our biggest gripes about the British government during the revolutionary era. This is the very reason why the Constitution entails checks and balances among the co-ordinate branches of government.

Political independence, on the other hand, looks at the actual ability of members to make final, autonomous decisions. This includes the freedom to act without fear of repercussion. As noted earlier, the Supreme Court has ensured a certain level of political independence by constraining the President from dismissing members without cause. But while commissioners are immune from the whims of an irate executive, they, unlike federal judges, are not given lifetime tenure. Given their six years terms of service, true independent thinking can raise the fear of being politically ostracized, and has the potential to leave future employment in peril. Washington is a small town with an elephant’s memory: if you want a political future post service on the commission, you would be wise to not stray too far from the party’s ideological platform. Such being the case, when the stakes are high (or even not that high), you can count on a 3-3 partisan split at the FEC.

Which leads to the next value: action. The American people hate stagnation, and love progress.

They hate lawlessness and love fair play. They hate talk, and love do. So when they want an agency (to the extent that they do want an agency), they want an agency with teeth–not some idle commission. Yes, we want the commission to undertake each matter with the utmost deliberation. And sure, by removing the commission’s bipartisan nature there is always the risk that it will act wrongheadedly. But Congress ostensibly undertakes a substantial amount of deliberation (have you ever been to a hearing?). And there are protections against the most egregious errors, including judicial scrutiny and, if extremely bad, overriding legislation. And of course there is always the next election–a referendum on the appointing party. What is the value of an agency comprised of bipartisan membership if it simply results in non-enforcement?

How do we achieve greater independence and more action? Reform the FEC by splitting its authority. Perhaps establish two boards–the Federal Election Regulatory Commission and the Federal Election Enforcement Commission–empowering one with drafting and adopting regulations, and the other with enforcing them and adjudicating disputes. Or maintain the existing structure but institute rotating panels comprised of three commissioners to handle the several responsibilities. These changes need not stoke the fear of enlarging government; they can be accomplished by maintaining the same number of employees and using the existing facilities. Any way we proceed, the key is to screen those who enact the laws from those who administer them, while also removing barriers that currently bind the commission from undertaking these essential tasks.

So we have a choice: we can reform or we can stagnate. One is a road to greater independence and action, and the other, a path to nowhere for the sake of bipartisanship. But understand that indecision is a decision–just ask the commissioners of the FEC.