Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Militaries Around the World to Cut Oil Use

There were several news reports in 2008 on the burden and impacts of soaring oil prices in militaries around the world.

The Telegraph reported that (French navy cut missions due to high fuel costs) French Navy canceled three international sea missions due to soaring oil prices. The ships are preferred to refuel at ports in countries with the lowest fuel prices, such as at Nato bases in Crete and Sicily.

The International Herald Tribune (French navy cancels 3 summer missions because of soaring fuel prices) mentions the burden of high oil prices for Portuguese Air Force aircrafts.

The military oil pains in recent years are not new. I have been persistently covering this for the US military for almost 4 years now on my blog.

While oil prices have been moving to the north like a balloon many armed forces of many countries have been investigating the ways to lessen the pain.

Chinese military’s medicine was energy savings: The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has ordered Armed Forces to Cut Costs, Reduce Energy Use (Xinhua News Agency, 6 February 2007) in response to the government's call for a resource efficient and environment-friendly society. According to Liao Xilong, director of the PLA General Logistics Department, "The armed forces should be leading the drive to build a resource efficient society."

The Chinese military saved 55,000 tons of oil, 170 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 1.157 million tons of coal, totaling nearly $180 million in 2006 (Chinese Army Goes Green, 7 February 2007). The General Logistics Department set up energy-saving goals for barracks construction to reduce energy consumption by 20% and to build 300 ecological military camps by 2010. It's also working to establish a series of rewards and punishments to encourage energy-saving activities and to promote renewable energy sources.

Canadian Military goes green in bid to cut fuel costs (CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen, 24 February 2007). Faced with mounting fuel bills, the Canadian Forces is looking to alternative energy sources as well getting better performance from equipment that it purchases in the future.

A new office, the directorate of fuels and lubricants, has been established to become the central clearing house on energy issues. It will not only monitor military fuel consumption but set standards and procedures for the use of alternative energy such as biodiesel. Canadian Forces Base Halifax is reported to be interested in operating some of its diesel trucks on a biodiesel made from fish oil.

South Korean military also jumped into the same train to reduce oil consumption to save energy . (24 March 2008). The South Korean Defense Ministry and all military branches decided to pursue energy-saving measures aimed at saving 11 percent of oil from the annual quota.

Under the directive, the Army plans to save 180,000 barrels of oil by minimizing field operations and vehicle mobilizations. Standard temperatures in barracks and other military facilities will also be reduced to 18 degrees centigrade from the current 19 degrees centigrade. The Navy plans to regulate the maneuvers of old ships and to enforce the speed limits set for energy-saving. It also plans to limit the mobilization of vessels and vehicles in regular operations and exercises. The Air Force is set to reduce the flight hours of pilots from the current 160 hours a year to 135 hours a year, in a bid to save fuel in 2008.

Financial Times had an excellent news piece[1] (Oil prices prompt search for fuel alternatives) in February 2009 on military fuel consumption around the world. It reported that fuel costs accounted for $17bn of the combined budget for the world’s top 20 military spenders in 2008. It says that the sharp increase in the price of oil added $6bn to the bill, quoting Jane’s Industry Quarterly study in January.

In fiscal year 2007, the US spent $12.6bn (or 2 per cent of its total budget on fuel). The UK spent $1.1 bn (1.27%), Japan $1 bn (2%), France $0.7 bn (1.1%), respectively.

In the UK, where rising oil costs added £120m-£130m to its fuel bill between 2006 and 2008, the government spent $1.06bn (£740m) last year. The Ministry of Defence already set up an internal fuel forum to look at all aspects of fuel usage and studying initiatives such as expanding use of simulator-based training; optimising fuel usage during live training; improving fuel storage; installing updated waste disposal methods on ships.

The Royal navy’s two new £4bn aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, due to come into service in the next few years, will have diesel generators while current carriers are having “anti-foul coating systems” applied to their hulls to improve fuel efficiency. Portsmouth’s historic naval base, which will be the home of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, plans to build a waste-to-energy plant to help cut its energy bills and meet the ships’ electricity needs onshore once they come into service.

Unfortunately I do not know how armed forces around the world (other than the US) price the fuel they use. What I know is that part of the US military’s high fuel costs is due to the standard fuel price policy followed by the Defense Energy Support Service. The DESC’s mission statement “The Defense Energy Support Center's mission is to provide the Department of Defense and other government agencies with comprehensive energy solutions in the most effective and economical manner possible,” does not fit the reality.

How come standard price of a gallon of JP-8 has been over 60% more expensive than the market price (for example New York Harbor Kerosene-Type Jet Fuel Spot Price) between October 2008 and February 2009? By the way, it was more than double in November 2008!

Why DESC is relatively quick enough to adjust its standard fuel prices when the oil prices go up but very slow when oil prices go down? The DoD should first get the prices right before blaming oil producing countries for the burden they supposedly put into DOD budget!

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