Subscribe
Misawa Air Base, Japan, is installing energy-efficient, fluorescent-white lights in facility parking lots. The lights provide more visible illumination per watt. Bases in the Pacific are finding creative ways to reduce their energy bills given this year’s high cost of fossil fuels.

Misawa Air Base, Japan, is installing energy-efficient, fluorescent-white lights in facility parking lots. The lights provide more visible illumination per watt. Bases in the Pacific are finding creative ways to reduce their energy bills given this year’s high cost of fossil fuels. (Courtesy of 35th Civil Engineer Squadron)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The blow hurricanes Katrina and Rita dealt to Gulf Coast petroleum refineries is being felt an ocean away as U.S. military bases in the Pacific take steps to conserve energy this winter.

Many bases cut off air conditioning early or delayed turning on the heat. Thermostats are being adjusted. Hybrid vehicles and electric cars are in. Fish tanks are out.

Bases don’t have much choice but to find ways to save precious energy dollars: Fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing, and President Bush has ordered all federal agencies to roll back energy use this winter — to include natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel.

“All agencies should conserve fuel so we can reduce overall demand and allow extra supplies to be directed towards the hurricane relief effort,” the Sept. 26 memorandum reads in part.

The Defense Department followed up the president’s order with its own directive that spelled out installation energy policy goals. Among other steps, DOD agencies are to reduce facility energy use by 2 percent per year relative to a 2003 baseline.

“It’s a welcome challenge,” said Dean Nakasone, Pacific Air Forces Civil Engineering’s facility energy conservation program manager. “It’s a good goal. You want to be good stewards of the resources and funds that you’re entrusted with.”

Energy managers in the Pacific said they already were implementing energy-saving measures prior to the presidential directive. PACAF, for instance, won a presidential award in October for leadership in federal energy management. But the Gulf Coast hurricanes and this year’s steep fuel prices are giving base energy conservation plans new direction and a new sense of urgency.

“It hit us in the pocketbook here,” said Master Sgt. Tony Parris, PACAF Logistics Fuels manager.

Fuel costs are up across the board, Parris said. JP8 jet fuel costs $2.14 a gallon for fiscal 2006 — up from $1.34 at the start of fiscal 2005 and $1.74 in June 2005, the latter marking the first time the Defense Department saw a mid-fiscal year fuel increase since the 1970s gas shortage. Unleaded fuel is up to $2.09 a gallon for fiscal 2006; it was $1.31 a gallon this time last year. Diesel fuel costs $1.92 a gallon, after jumping from $1.20 to $1.56 a gallon mid-fiscal 2005.

Natural gas and oil also cost more. In early December, the Associated Press reported that natural gas rose to a new record after a winter storm hit the northern United States, and oil prices are more than 40 percent higher than a year ago.

More-expensive fossil fuels translate into higher energy bills, and bases are trying to cap those. The most noticeable effort under way is heating and cooling, with some bases pushing back the date for turning on the heat and others looking for ways to upgrade buildings so they conserve energy instead of guzzling it. (See box)

Whether higher fuel bills affect impact flying remains to be seen. In PACAF, wing leaders have the discretion to direct any aviation cost-saving measures, Parris said.

“We recommended reducing nonessential flying hours, shutting down nonessential engines during taxiing, and flying at (fuel-efficient) optimal altitudes,” he said.

The impact on base budgets and whether services elsewhere may have to be reduced to pay for higher energy costs are also unknown for now, as fiscal 2006 budgets are not yet finalized.

One thing that is known: “Our utility bills in PACAF have indeed gone up, although energy use has gone down,” Nakasone said.

Power struggle

Pacific bases are taking measures to cut their energy use as the cost of petroleum and natural gas rises. Take a look at what some bases are doing to keep the energy bills down.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up