Sunday, May 10, 2009

Energy and Defense Policies

Australian Department of Defense released its new White Paper to the horizon 2030.

Why Australia needed a new Defense Policy? Warren Snowdon, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, gave the precise answer in this Speech to the Australian Defence Magazine Congress 2009, held on 17 February 2009. He mentioned in his speech that the world has changed much since the last White Paper in the year 2000. One of the changes he mentioned was “the emerging challenges of climate and demographic change, and energy and food security.”

That’s why “The Prime Minister has called for a new approach to national security that brings together all the elements of traditional and non-traditional security capabilities that ensure Australia responds to the full breadth of the threat spectrum that will increasingly confront Australia, including:…..

Preparing for the new challenges of energy security; and
Anticipating the impact of climate change on long-term food and water security.”

Before the study was finalized a public consultation was launched. See, Looking Over the Horizon: Australians Consider Defense, December 2008, Australian Department of defense, defense White Paper Community Consultation.

In there it is stated that “Energy security featured as a recurring issue in the community consultations, including in relation to the strategic consequences of the inexorable decline of oil supplies……

Some also pointed to the vulnerability of the ADF’s force structure (and ultimately of its capability) from exposure to long supply routes of finite oil supplies and asked…..
In terms of ADF capability, some participants were concerned that the ADF was vulnerable to rising fuel costs and possibly the onset of peak oil and the consequential impact on ADF platforms, activities and preparedness……” Guess, who was mentioning Peak Oil? ASPO-Australia, of course.

Against this background I am a little bit surprised with the final report which was released on 2 May 2009. See, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, Defence White paper, Australian Department of Defence, 2009. No mention of Peak Oil. However, there is a wide range of discussion on energy, especially climate change.

Here are some quotes from the White Paper:

In answering the question “Why Do We Need a White Paper Now?” the paper stated that “In the past decade we have also become increasingly more conscious of the potential security impacts of changing climate patterns, resource and energy scarcity, and persistent patterns of poverty and poor governance in many parts of the world.”

This has changed The Global Strategic Environment which will have wide ranging implications in the future. For instance: “Regional conflicts, such as in the Middle East and Africa, will likely continue to be a risk in the international system. Clashes between and within states in these regions are likely to arise for diverse reasons, such as the breakdown of fragile states; disputes over territory; access to resources, water and energy; population movements, environmental crises or food shortages…... Changing climate patterns, combined with booming population growth, will sharpen competition for scarce food, water and energy resources in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.”

The Paper’s backbone is The Strategic Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region.
“The Indian Ocean will have greater strategic significance in the period to 2030. It will become an increasingly important global trading thoroughfare, particularly for energy supplies between Asia and the Middle East. There are a number of significant inter-state and intra-state conflicts along its periphery that have the potential to draw in other powers. Over time, ….., the Indian Ocean is likely to host a larger military (particularly naval) presence. A number of major naval powers are likely to increasingly compete for strategic advantage in this crucial maritime region. Over the period to 2030, the Indian Ocean will join the Pacific Ocean in terms of its centrality to our maritime strategy and defence planning.

The Paper has a sub section entitled: New Security Concerns: Climate Change and Resource Security.
Under that section it is mentioned that “The Government also considered new security risks that might arise from the potential impact of climate change and resource security issues, involving future tensions over the supply of energy, food and water. …..Uncertainty about the effects of climate change and the period of time over which potential impacts may develop makes it difficult to assess its strategic consequences. Large-scale strategic consequences of climate change are not likely to be felt before 2030. The security effects of climate change are likely to be most pronounced where states have limited capacity to respond to environmental strains….

The main effort against such developments will of course need to be undertaken through coordinated international climate change mitigation and economic assistance strategies, and concerted international action to assure energy supply and distribution, which will need to be at the forefront of Australia's policy responses……”
“Most of Australia's reserves of oil and gas are concentrated offshore in the north-west of Australia and the Timor Sea. Many of our key resource extraction facilities are remote and would be vulnerable to interference, disruption or attack. Some of our offshore territories would also be vulnerable to harassment or attack, and their loss or occupation by an adversary would represent a major strategic setback.”

The issues mentioned in Australian Defense Policy is not far away from the ones mentioned or will be mentioned in the US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a legislatively-mandated review of DoD strategy and priorities. Previous QDRs were conducted in 1997, 2001, and 2006. (see my remarks on Quadrennial Defense Review 2006 posted in April 2006 on my blog). The new one will be released in 2010.

According to the US Department of Defense: The QDR is “one of the principal means by which the tenets of the National Defense Strategy are translated into potential new policies, capabilities and initiatives. The purpose of the QDR is to assess the threats and challenges the nation faces, as well as to balance the department’s strategies, capabilities and forces to address today’s conflicts and tomorrow’s threats.”

The fact sheet for the new QDR says that it “The strategic environment we face is complex and the security challenges – both current and those on the horizon – are wide ranging. The global economic downturn adds to the complexity. Key security challenges include ….. climate change,…. increasing scarcity of resources …..” In Global Strategic Trends (view of the future produced by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), UK’s Ministry of Defence, 25 January 2008), energy and climate issues are given much more space, including the section “Competition for Energy.” Militarization of energy security and climate change is a worrying trend. Even NATO is dealing with these issues (see my post in November 2007 NATO and Energy Security).

I understand and give credit to the energy part of these defense policies and views but I have difficulty in understanding their obsession with climate change. What is the role of climate change (whose effects will not be seen before the second half of this century even in the worst case anyway) in defense policies to 2030? This issue is becoming outrages. Or governments want to use climate change issue just a pretext for justifying their intended future actions?
Sometimes military community can be funny with their climate change obsessions.
Here is an example: “Every 1°C increase in air temperature typically reduces the operating height of a helicopter by 100 feet. An extreme event could wipe 1000 feet off the flight ceiling.” (mentioned in Defense in a Changing Climate, Defence Scientific Advisory Council, U.K Ministry of Defence, 2007).

Armed forces around the world, especially the ones in the so-called West, should first look in the mirror before telling other people what they should do or not do!


At 12:42 AM, Blogger Nathan C said...

Hello Sohbet:

I am told the following:

"in places like Afghanistan, every gallon of fuel has to be driven in over very long distances, or flown into advanced bases; in some cases, the cost per gallon of JP-8 delivered has reached $400."

I realize that transporting the stuff is expensive, but is that $400 to be believed?


At 2:27 PM, Blogger sohbet karbuz said...

$400 figure includes protection of fuel convoys, which is now carried out by contractors.


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