The U.S. military consumed
almost 500 thousand barrels per day of oil at the end of the Cold War. In FY 2011,
its oil consumption was down to 355 thousand barrels per day despite increasing
activity in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And yet, military oil consumption has become a
strategic vulnerability, an operational Achilles’ heel, and a readiness
challenge, only in the past decade. Why?
Remember, in March 2003, Lt
General James Mattis (former commander of the 1st Marine Division, during the
drive to Baghdad) called on the DOD to "unleash us from the tether of
fuel." Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne spearheaded the DOD’s push
into alternative fuels in 2005 by creating a task force. Then came in 2006 Maj.
Gen. Richard Zilmer's operational request from Anbar Province for a "self-sustainable
energy solution." This was followed
by the January 2007 SOTU address of the former US President Bush, who said "For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this
dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists who
could cause huge disruptions in oil shipments, raise the price of oil and do
harm to our economy." Repeating what Bush has said in 2007, Ray Mabus, Secretary
of the Navy, has taken the lead since 2009 for pushing biofuels as a remedy to
the DoD’s dependence on oil. Why?
Forget all the talks about becoming
green military, security threat of climate change etc, the real reason is the
DoD’s increasing fuel costs.
Just look at the chart below,
between 2003 and 2011, the DOD’s oil consumption decreased 10%. And yet its
fuel costs tripled and reached $19 billion.
The reason is the
increasing oil price of course.
When we look at the fuel
costs by DOD services, we see the biggest increase in the Army (9 times), followed
by Air Force, Marines and Navy (less than 3 times).
Between June 2007 and June
2012, the DOD services purchased more than 15 million gallons of alternative
fuels for testing and certifying efforts (in tactical vehicles). Army’s share
is less than 3 percent. The rest is by the Air Force and Navy. So, why does the
Army play such a low profile despite a hefty fuel bill and while the others are
always in the news headlines? Why?
As the saying goes, facts
are many but the truth is one. The truth is that the US military will continue
to run on conventional oil and neither biofuels nor technology can change it at
least in the next 2 decades. Better to accept this reality and spend the hard
earned taxpayers money wisely.