Saturday, May 05, 2007

New Pentagon Study on Oil

An interesting article titled Pentagon study says oil reliance strains military appeared on the Boston Globe on May 1, 2007.

The author, Bryan Bender, summarizes the findings of a new study ordered by the Pentagon. The study is called "Transforming the Way DoD Looks at Energy," and was conducted by LMI. I checked on internet but couldn’t find it. Probably it has not been released to public yet. Will it ever? I would love to read it. You know, the U.S. military oil consumption is one of the “center of gravity” of my blog.

Now, let me comment on what has been said in the Boston Globe article.

The study warns that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil will make the US military's ability to respond to hot spots around the world "unsustainable in the long term."

Dwindling supply of oil? Later in the article it is mentioned “as oil supplies dwindle during the next half-century.” So, what they mean with “dwindle” is not clear to me. Is that a CERA biased estimation? In any case, the Pentagon will always have sufficient amount of oil it needs, no matter how much it costs.

Here is another sentence that needs more clarification: the report “calls all four branches of the military fundamentally transform their assumptions about energy, including taking immediate steps toward fielding weapons systems and aircraft that run on alternative and renewable fuels.”

This is nothing more than wishful thinking. Synthetic fuel blend, still being tested, on B-52 is a very bad decision. See my earlier post on that (Fill up the B-52 with Synthetic Fuel). For the same distance B-52 would carry and burn more synfuel, compared to conventional JP-8. And the cost would be horrendous, even if it is peanuts for the Pentagon. A gallon of conventional JP-8 costs 4-5 dollar, whereas synthetic fuel derived from natural gas (the one the USAF buys now) costs over $20 per gallon. It is more insane if the USAF buys synthetic fuel derived from coal. Syntroleum and Pentagon already dance around it.

To me this synfuel blend on B-52 is only to make the politicians and environmentalists happy. The Pentagon wants to with the current. IF the Pentagon were serious, the new “Bomber 2018” as well as F-22 and F-35s would run on synfuel, not B-52. Why there is no change in propulsion technologies?

All the oil savings, renewable/alternative sources of energy etc efforts of the DOD is focused on facilities. The Pentagon has to put on glasses when looking at its energy consumption figures. It is tactical vehicles that consume most of the oil. That is why Army’s recent effort (a report is in preparation) to reduce its natural gas consumption is almost insane and useless. Its gas use is already in decline anyway. Instead, Army should have focused on oil. Why there is no talk on gas-guzzling Humwees, Abrams and other tactical vehicles? IF the Pentagon wants to reduce its electricity consumption in facilities then the easiest, cheapest and most logical thing to do is simply to change habit – conserve.

The article quotes a sentence from the report: “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.”

Wow, wow! First of all it is not possible to come up with such an estimate. I would understand if it were 16 times more fuel. But it says 16 times more fuel PER SOLDIER.

Anyway, now compare that figure with what Carlton Meyer, a former Marine officer who runs G2mil Quarterly, a Web site on military issues, said "The U.S. Army burned 12 times more fuel per soldier in Iraq than it did in France in 1944 -- nine gallons of fuel per soldier per day in 2004."

My estimate, which was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article: “the military uses fuel at twice the rate it did in the first Persian Gulf War and four times the rate it did in the Second World War.”

I guess what the Pentagon study did is to use Robert Bryce’s estimates, but in a wrong way. Probably I should write on this point in another post.

Now, it is true that 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 Air Force, in fact, already sees itself as the leader in that. Even in its FY08 budget materials there are passages on energy.

Another statistics which got my attention: “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.” Wait a minute, wasn’t that 70%? As far as I know, there is only one source which made that estimation. Are they quoting that or they came up with a new estimation?

Here is another point which I do not agree: “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.” This is simply not true. Some bases were closed in Asia and Europe but many other were opened. Come on, are they relying on incorrect/inaccurate Base Structure Report of the DoD?

Another statistics in the report: “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.”

Really? Whose estimate based on which year? The most recent estimate I know of belongs to Milton R. Copulos, President of the National Defense Council Foundation. In January 2007 he increased his old estimate of “the fixed costs of defending Persian Gulf oil amounted to $49.1 billion annually” to “$137.8 billion.”

There is no way the US military oil consumption will go down in the future. I do not trust official consumption figures of the DOD, including the DESC. Because I believe they overly underestimate/underreport military oil consumption overseas.

Am I being too negative in this post?

One good news is that the Pentagon finally has started paying attention to its own oil consumption. Proof? Just look at the number of oil/energy related articles and publications in military circles, executive orders and practical actions in DOD services.

I think the message is clear: Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, oil is too important to be left to the oil industry.

see my next post for a detailed discussion of the LMI study (Much Ado for Nothing: Transforming the Way DoD Loo... )

Tags: Military Energy Consumption, Alternative Fuels, Military Oil Consumption, Department of Defense, Synthetic fuel, US Air Force



At 2:43 AM, 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.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger sohbet karbuz said...

Dear Kent,

thank you very much for your insightful opinions. I will carefully analyse the links you sent.

As you agree the DOD is an enormous complex. A few years ago in an article I said it is not possible to differentiate whether DOD is "Department of Defense" or "Empire of Defense."

And right, Government Accountability Office has recently released many reports on "Defense Acquisitions". In his latest testimony the Comptroller General said that it is impossible to know where the money goes in Iraq.

Military-indistrial complex became gigantic. The question is who can stop that and how?

as you mention, over $600 billion defense budget comes from in fact the pockets of tax-payers. Imagine what could be done with that money.

thanks again for your excellent remarks, also on your blog.


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