- About Us
- Community Guidelines

Advertising on BOR
- Advertise on BOR


We're Counting On You.

Burnt Orange Report is redeveloping our website for the first time in almost a decade.

We're counting on your support to continue providing you free and frequent coverage of progressive issues that matter to Texans.

Help us build a website that is as great as the content we publish on it.

Department of Defense

Defense Dept. Invests Huge Money in Renewable Energy - Energy Dept. Drafts Long Term Energy Goals

by: Adam Schwitters

Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 07:03 PM CST

Amongst the background of two cabinet level agencies announcing huge new investments in a clean and secure energy future, Dr. Michael Holland of the Office of the Under Secretary for Science in the Department of Energy spoke in Austin today about the process of finding funding for research and development (particularly for clean energy) within the constantly changing world of Washington DC.  He also spoke specifically about the release of the new Quadrennial Technology Review which will, hopefully, provide the kind of long term planning that has been a cornerstone of the Defense Department’s approach to fighting the “next war” for decades, but which has been sorely lacking from the government’s approach to energy policy.

Holland discussed the historical problems with energy research funding within the DOE, saying, “every [fiscal] year, funding for a given technology [be it coal, nuclear, increased efficiency, or clean tech] has a 33% chance to change more than 25%.”  To put it another way, “political struggles on Capitol Hill always beat a long term focus on R&D.” The department’s new quadrennial review hopes to address this dysfunction by laying out concrete, long term goals for improving our energy security and reducing our reliance on old, dirty technologies.  

Holland described the numerous challenges faced by policy makers trying to craft a long term energy policy.  First, energy policy, ironically, represents the smallest, and least funded mission of the DOE.  The building and maintenance of nuclear weapons, securing fissile materials around the world, and providing research funding to universities and laboratories are the three primary roles of DOE.  Along these lines, DOE’s budgets for energy research have not always reflected the best use of funds.  Its 2011 budget had “the least amount of money going to the most accessible areas.”  Only 4% of the 2011 budget went to electric vehicle research (which is available, easily implemented technology), only 6% was spent on a smart grid (which is integral in making the switch to electric vehicles), and a whopping 51% was spent on renewable energy generation (which is important, but further from becoming a truly beneficial reality).  Hopefully, the new review will help the department target the “best” use of its limited funds, and, more importantly, keep that focus consistent from year to year in spite of the fickle political winds swirling about Washington.

In discussing the switch to truly clean energy sources, Holland stressed the difficulty in transforming an energy system as large and “mature” as the one we have.  “The scale of the system is enormous and change happens very slowly.”  He did, however, outline the department’s 6 point strategy: increase the efficiency of vehicles, electrify public vehicle fleets, find alternative hydrocarbons for heavy duty vehicles (think bio-diesel for 18 wheelers), increase the efficiency of buildings and industry (52% of energy generated in the US is lost to inefficiencies), modernize the grid, and finally to deploy clean energy generation.  Some of these things can happen quickly (particularly the electric vehicles), and some could take a very long time (transitioning our electric generation from coal to solar or wind).

At a conference in Washington, today, Bill Gates similarly discussed the problems with energy funding in the US today.  “It’s crazy how little we are funding this energy stuff.”  He added that it is “likely that underfunding is delaying the rate of progress” on new technologies.  

The Department of Defense, however, does not feel the same budgetary constraints as its smaller cousins in the executive branch, and today, it announced a massive ($7 billion) proposal to build “large scale” clean energy power generation facilities on federal lands across the country.  Of course the DOD, had more than just clean energy in mind when it announced its intention to generate 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025; a 2010 study showed that fuel made up 50% by volume of all transportation in Iraq and Afghanistan, that there was 1 casualty for every 24 fuel related convoys, and that a 10% reduction in fuel consumption would have saved at least 35 service members’ lives over the preceding 5 years.  

For DOD, the switch to clean tech is about saving lives.  We need to realize that the switch to clean tech will save lives for the rest of us too.  As Bill Gates explained, newer, better sources of energy are key to improving the lives of the poorest 2 billion people on earth.  “Without advances in energy, they stay stuck where they are.  If you look at who will be the victims of climate change, it will be small holder farmers [in equatorial nations] ... and that brings you back to energy.”

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Anti-FOIA study exposed and stalled

by: M. Eddie Rodriguez

Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 05:34 PM CDT

Link: MySA.com: St. Mary's grant in limbo.

Who has the money? Who's giving the money? What's happening to the money?

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

After the negative press from the announcement that St. Mary's Law School was receiving $1 million from the DoD to study "how to limit the Freedom of Information Act," the Air Force Research Laboratory suddenly admits is won't administer the project.

Picture_2_5The laboratory states that the project is more of a "policy project than bona fide research."


<-- Here we have the Air Force Research Lab saying that its a poilical push rather than an academic endevour.

The research group manages all basic scientific research funded by the Air Force, soliciting proposals from academic institutions for work in fields such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer science, according to its Web site.

The St. Mary's proposal "doesn't fit with the information research and development that we do," Emlin told
Secrecy News.

So, why would we trust the director, Addicott, or the Center to have a true research study when the Air Force doesn't believe it can? Frankly, I do not trust him or the Center to protect our freedom nor the good name of my alma mater.

I hope the University and it's president, Dr. Charlie Cotrell, see the error of allowing such a controversial and wrong headed-project to continue.

To help, read the petition (pdf) and sign it by sending your name to giveitbackstmarys@gmail.com

How about a little James Madison to cap the post? I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

ACLU weighs in on St. Mary's and FOIA

by: M. Eddie Rodriguez

Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 06:54 PM CDT

The San Antonio Chapter of ACLU has just reached out to St. Mary's University and its attempt to create an anti-FOIA study center.

As noted earlier on TRS, St. Mary's received $1,000,000.00 to study "ways to limit the scope of the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], a landmark open government law that celebrated its 40th anniversary [on the 4th of July].

The ACLU responds with some interesting research about the Center for Terrorism Law connection to the military-industrial complex. "While the Center for Terrorism Law claims it “provides a service as a partner in the San Antonio, Texas community” the list of local community affiliations seem limited to those directly or indirectly connected with the military." This is important because there is no affiliation with those concerned with the protection of civil liberties and promoting transparent government.

Here is a list of "partners:

  • United States Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Air Intelligence Agency at Lackland Air Force Base
  • United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado
  • International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel
  • TATE, Incorporated (Trusted Agent for Technology and Engineering) in Germantown, Maryland
    • “TATE’s current customers include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Defense Intelligence Agency and other government agencies,” and that it is  “the nation’s leading contractor providing . . . Peacetime Government Detention (PGD), [and] Hostage Detention (HD), . . . plans and operations and other sensitive training support to the U.S. government.

Sound like a fun bunch of folks. Somehow I just don't see the Bill of Rights framed on their walls. Before anyone gets too bitchy, security is important but so is freedom and transparency in government. The above mentioned groups have no interests in protecting the Freedom of Information Act or civil liberties in general. It is just not their job to care about it.

As an alumunus, I couldn't let them get away with this. This is why we started a campaign to tell St. Marys to give the money back. Check out Give It Back St. Mary's and sign the petition. The million is not worth the soul of the University.

Their open letter (full letter here) states:

It seems to us that at present the point of view of civil libertarians is not well represented at the Center for Terrorism Law.  The military mindset seems to dominate.  Although Professor Jeffrey Addicott, the Director of the Center, is putatively well versed in matters of human rights, he is a career military officer.  Consultants for the center consist of one retired Army lieutenant general, two retired Army major generals, a colonel who is an Army Reservist, and an active duty major in the Air Force.  The only civilian consultant is a student who is studying to be a librarian. 

So almost everyone connected to this program is military centered.... and you wonder why people are crying 'foul!'

We are also concerned about the fact that the grant St. Mary’s is seeking would be from the federal government—specifically from the Department of Defense—although the focus of the grant proposal is to be on state laws.  This raises an unavoidable question:  Why should the U.S. military fund a project whose goal is to write model legislation that could be used by state governments to deal with freedom of information?

Which begs the question: Why would a person claiming to be an expert on military law be studying the Freedom of Information Act and state law? Could the outcome of the study already be determined?

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 378 words in story)

Connect With BOR

2014 Texas Elections
Follow BOR for who's in, who's out, and who's up.

Candidate Tracker:
-- Statewide Races
-- Congressional Races
-- State Senate Races
-- State Rep. Races
-- SBOE Races
-- Austin City Council

Click here for all 2014 Elections coverage


Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Texas Blue Pages

Texas Blue Pages
A career network for progressives.


Shared On Facebook

Burnt Orange Reporters
Editor and Publisher:
Katherine Haenschen

Senior Staff Writers:
Genevieve Cato
Joe Deshotel
Ben Sherman

Staff Writers:
Omar Araiza
Emily Cadik
Phillip Martin
Natalie San Luis
Katie Singh
Joseph Vogas

Byron LaMasters

Blogger Emeritus:
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read staff bios here.

Traffic Ratings
- Alexa Rating
- Quantcast Ratings

Powered by: SoapBlox