Friday, June 15, 2007

Michael Klare and US Military Oil Use

One of my favorite analysts on the U.S. military and oil is Michael Klare. His latest article called “The Pentagon v. Peak Oil” gives a good overview of the role and importance of oil in the Pentagon.

However, I am rather disappointed with Klare on a few points.

First, on numbers: His article begins with “Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis … Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone. Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia.”

Well, a verrrry rough calculation. But be careful. Note that Klare’s 3.5 million gallons of oil per day [consumption in Iraq and Afghanistan] makes 83,000 barrels per day. This is way above the reality. Also, 1.3 billion gallons per year [consumption in Southwest Asia] makes nearly 100,000 barrels per day, which is also a large overestimation.

Second, on his praised study: “It can be difficult to obtain precise details on the DoD's daily oil hit, but an April 2007 report by a defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting, suggests that the Pentagon might consume as much as 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day.”

Come on Klare, that LMI study is one of the worse (if not the worst) studies I have ever seen on DoD’s oil details. I still do not understand why DoD felt the necessity to contract such a study to LMI. There are many people inside the DoD who could prepare a report at least ten times better than LMI. I do not undermine LMI. They have very high quality analysis, but this one does not qualify. See my comments on the LMI study for more on that.

Third, on DoD price estimates: Klare argues that DoE has been wrong with oil price forecast. True. But referring to DoE price forecast he thinks that This is the amount that figures in many current governmental budgetary forecasts -- including, presumably, those of the Department of Defense.”

Well, Defense Energy Support Center (DESC)’s customers, i.e., DoD, are charged standard prices for oil products set in advance by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller), and, in most cases, are in effect for the entire fiscal year. The end result is that the customer is insulated from market fluctuations during the Fiscal Year. See, What the Standard Price of Fuel is, for more precise definition.

I read once (couldn’t find it while I was writing this post) an official U.S. government document (himm, was it a CBO or GAO report?) demonstrating that DoD’s own way of guesstimating future oil prices is not much worse than the DoE. So, DoD makes its own guesstimates.

Fourth, on energy security: Klare claims that the DoD has suddenly taken an interest in the “energy security” problem. Well, it depends on what sudden means. But not definitely yesterday, last month or last year. It was after September 11, 2001 at least. I don’t think that we can call it sudden.

Fifth, on GI’s average daily oil consumption: Klare says that: “During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the average American soldier consumed only four gallons of oil per day; as a result of George W. Bush's initiatives, a U.S. soldier in Iraq is now using four times as much. If this rate of increase continues unabated, the next major war could entail an expenditure of 64 gallons per soldier per day.”

Well, this is simply incorrect. Check out Fact 13 in my article on U.S. military energy consumption – facts and figures [also appeared on EnergyBulletin]. Am I correct? Maybe not. But at least my calculations are based on official data.

Sixth, on Peak Oil: Klare states correctly the implications of Peak Oil on the Pentagon. But again, this is not new to the Pentagon, [forgive me but I feel obliged to quote again myself] see my article “Pentagon and Peak Oil: A Military Literature Review”.

Seventh, on Pentagon and oil: Klare finishes his article with “the American military has been transformed into a "global oil-protection service" for the benefit of U.S. corporations and consumers, fighting overseas battles and establishing its bases to ensure that we get our daily fuel fix. It would be both sad and ironic, if the military now began fighting wars mainly so that it could be guaranteed the fuel to run its own planes, ships, and tanks -- consuming hundreds of billions of dollars a year that could instead be spent on the development of petroleum alternatives.”

I agree that the job of the Pentagon is to protect American interests. And anything the corporate America can benefit is an American interest. The issue is that simple. However, not spending billions of dollars on oil does not mean that that money would be spent on petroleum alternatives, or as the military people argue, on procurement of new war machines. The U.S. military runs on oil and will do so in the future. Money is not an issue for the Pentagon. It gets what it wants (with moderation maybe).

Tags: Department of Defense, US Military, Military Oil Consumption, Peak Oil, Pentagon, Michael Klare




At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand what you meant about DESC "insulating" oil prices. It sounds like it is just moving the cost from one budget to another, since both the DoD and DESC take funding from the same sources (us).

At 11:26 PM, Blogger sohbet karbuz said...

with insulating I mean DESC customers are tried to be protected from oil price fluctuations. The DOD services (USAF etc) prepare their budgets based on those fixed prices. But when the price is changed by DESC (due to recent increase in int'l oil prices) then the services need to find extra money to fill the gap.


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