Peak Oil News: Pentagon study says oil reliance strains military

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pentagon study says oil reliance strains military

The Boston Globe

Pentagon study says oil reliance strains military
Urges development of alternative fuels

By Bryan Bender

A new study ordered by the Pentagon warns that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil -- the lifeblood of fighter jets, warships, and tanks -- will make the US military's ability to respond to hot spots around the world "unsustainable in the long term."

The study, produced by a defense consulting firm, concludes that all four branches of the military must "fundamentally transform" their assumptions about energy, including taking immediate steps toward fielding weapons systems and aircraft that run on alternative and renewable fuels. It is "imperative" that the Department of Defense "apply new energy technologies that address alternative supply sources and efficient consumption across all aspects of military operations," according to the report, which was provided to the Globe.

Weaning the military from fossil fuels quickly, however, would be a herculean task -- especially because the bulk of the US arsenal, the world's most advanced, is dependent on fossil fuels and many of those military systems have been designed to remain in service for at least several decades.

Moving to alternative energy sources on a large scale would "challenge some of the department's most deeply held assumptions, interests, and processes," the report acknowledges.

But Pentagon advisers believe the military's growing consumption of fossil fuels -- an increasingly expensive and scarce commodity -- leaves Pentagon leaders with little choice but to break with the past as soon as possible. Compared with World War II, according to the report, the military in Iraq and Afghanistan is using 16 times more fuel per soldier.

"We have to wake up," said Milton R. Copulos , National Defense Council Foundation president and an authority on the military's energy needs. "We are at the edge of a precipice and we have one foot over the edge. The only way to avoid going over is to move forward and move forward aggressively with initiatives to develop alternative fuels. Just cutting back won't work."

The Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation and Resources, which is responsible for addressing future security challenges, commissioned LMI, a government - consulting firm, to produce the report. Called "Transforming the Way DoD Looks at Energy," the study is intended as a potential blueprint for a new military energy strategy and includes a detailed survey of potential alternatives to oil -- including synthetic fuels, renewable biofuels, ethanol, and biodiesel fuel as well as solar and wind power, among many others.

The military is considered a technology leader and how it decides to meet future energy needs could influence broader national efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil. The report adds a powerful voice to the growing chorus warning that, as oil supplies dwindle during the next half-century, US reliance on fossil fuels poses a serious risk to national security.

"The Pentagon's efforts in this area would have a huge impact on the rest of the country," Copulos said.

The Department of Defense is the largest single energy consumer in the country. The Air Force spends about $5 billion a year on fuel, mostly to support flight operations. The Navy and Army are close behind.

Of all the cargo the military transports, more than half consists of fuel. About 80 percent of all material transported on the battlefield is fuel.

The military's energy consumption has steadily grown as its arsenal has become more mechanized and as US forces have had to travel farther distances.

In World War II, the United States consumed about a gallon of fuel per soldier per day, according to the report. In the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, about 4 gallons of fuel per soldier was consumed per day. In 2006, the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan burned about 16 gallons of fuel per soldier on average per day , almost twice as much as the year before.

Higher fuel consumption is a consequence of the US military's changing posture in recent years. During the Cold War, US forces were deployed at numerous bases across the world; since then, the United States has downsized its force and closed many of its former bases in Asia and Europe.

The Pentagon's strategic planning has placed a premium on being able to deploy forces quickly around the world from bases in the United States.

The National Defense Strategy, which lays out the Pentagon's anticipated missions, calls for an increased US military presence around the globe to be able to combat international terrorist groups and respond to humanitarian and security crises. But aviation fuel consumption for example, has increased 6 percent over the last decade. And the report predicts that trend will continue.

"The US military will have to be even more energy intense, locate in more regions of the world, employ new technologies, and manage a more complex logistics system," according to the report. "Simply put, more miles will be traveled, both by combat units and the supply units that sustain them, which will result in increased energy consumption."

The costs of relying on oil to power the military are consuming an increasing share of the military's budget, the report asserts. Energy costs have doubled since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it says, and the cost of conducting operations could become so expensive in the future that the military will not be able to pay for some of its new weapon systems.

Ensuring access to dwindling oil supplies also carries a big price tag. The United States, relying largely on military patrols, spends an average of $44 billion per year safeguarding oil supplies in the Persian Gulf. And the United States is often dependent on some of the same countries that pose the greatest threats to US interests.

Achieving an energy transformation at the Department of Defense "will require the commitment, personal involvement , and leadership of the secretary of defense and his key subordinates," the report says.

Bender can be reached at


At 8:19 AM, May 02, 2007, Blogger Tom Gray said...

It's good to see this kind of flexible thinking. The U.S. Air Force is already on the cutting edge, being one of the largest green power purchasers in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of green power purchasers, and there are also a few bases out there that are investigating wind as a power supply option. A more detailed description is available here.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association

At 5:22 PM, May 05, 2007, Blogger RoseCovered Glasses said...

Your post has some excellent points. I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak. Here's some additional data:

The U.S. Department of Defense, headquartered in the Pentagon, is one of the most massive organizations on the planet, with net annual operating costs of $635 billion, assets worth $1.3 trillion, liabilities of $1.9 trillion and more that 2.9 million military and civilian personnel as of fiscal year 2005.

It is difficult to convey the complexity of the way DOD works to someone who has not experienced it. This is a massive machine with so many departments and so much beaurocracy that no president, including Bush totally understands it.

Presidents, Congressmen, Cabinet Members and Appointees project a knowledgeable demeanor but they are spouting what they are told by career people who never go away and who train their replacements carefully. These are military and civil servants with enormous collective power, armed with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Industrial Security Manuals, compartmentalized classification structures and "Rice Bowls" which are never mixed.

Our society has slowly given this power structure its momentum which is constant and extraordinarily tough to bend. The cost to the average American is exhorbitant in terms of real dollars and bad decisions. Every major power structure member in the Pentagon's many Washington Offices and Field locations in the US and Overseas has a counterpart in Defense Industry Corporate America. That collective body has undergone major consolidation in the last 10 years.

What used to be a broad base of competitive firms is now a few huge monoliths, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing and SAIC. If you would like to read how they control our government, please see:

Government oversight committees are carefully stroked. Sam Nunn and others who were around for years in military and policy oversight roles have been cajoled, given into on occasion but kept in the dark about the real status of things until it is too late to do anything but what the establishment wants. This still continues - with increasing high technology and potential for abuse.

Please examine the following link to testimony given by Franklin C. Spinney before Congress in 2002. It provides very specific information from a whistle blower who is still blowing his whistle (Look him up in your browser and you get lots of feedback) Frank spent the same amount of time as I did in the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) but in government quarters. His job in government was a similar role to mine in defense companies. Frank's emphasis in this testimony is on the money the machine costs us. It is compelling and it is noteworthy that he was still a staff analyst at the Pentagon when he gave this speech. I still can't figure out how he got his superior's permission to say such blunt things. He was extremely highly respected and is now retired.

The brick wall I often refer to is the Pentagon's own arrogance. It will implode by it's own volition, go broke, or so drastically let down the American people that it will fall in shambles. Rest assured the day of the implosion is coming. The machine is out of control.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting on this blog entitled, "Odyssey of Armaments"

On the same subject, you may also be interested in the following sites from the "Project On Government Oversight", observing it's 25th Anniversary and from "Defense In the National Interest", inspired by Franklin Spinney and contributed to by active/reserve, former, or retired military personnel.


Post a Comment

<< Home