Armed Forces’ Dependence on Fossil Fuels

On December 10, 2009, an article titled “Greenery on the March” was published in The Economist.  In the article, the author discussed the problems related to the United States Armed Forces’ current reliance on fossil fuels to support combat missions both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “The British Army calculates that it takes seven gallons of fuel to deliver one gallon to Afghanistan” (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).  In addition, the United States Armed Forces require approximately “1m gallons of fuel a day in Afghanistan” (“Greenery on the March”, 2009) to provide support bases with electricity, aircrafts with jet fuel, and tanks with gasoline.  In one year, the United States Armed Forces burns around 2,555 million gallons of fuel of which 2,190 million gallons are necessary for fuel transportation.  The extensive consumption of fossil fuels by the United States Armed Forces contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, but more importantly serves as a weakness for terrorist organizations to capitalize on by attacking supply convoys.  Therefore, the United States Armed Forces must take advantage of alternative energy sources in order to eliminate this weakness.

In the article “Greenery on the March,” the author suggested several ideas intended to reduce the United States Armed Forces’ consumption of fossil fuels.  As mentioned in the article, “about 40% of fuel is used to run electricity generators” (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).  Installing photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines at the site of support bases would undoubtedly reduce fuel consumption, but at what cost?  In 2007, the Pentagon’s fuel bill was a staggering twenty billion dollars (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).  What reasons would justify further increasing the military budget in order to invest in alternative energy sources?  Transitioning from traditional energy sources to alternative energy sources would provide the United States’ Armed Forces with a more stable source of energy.  However, investing in alternative energy sources is not the only way to minimize the United States Armed Forces’ consumption of fossil fuels; the United States Armed Forces have started to insulate the tents at support bases to save energy.  According to Joseph Sartiano, the insulation “treatment halves the energy needed for air-conditioning and pays for itself within three to six months” (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).

Tackling the remaining 60% of the fossil fuel consumed by the United States Armed Forces is more difficult due to the lack of an environmentally friendly yet comparable substitute for jet fuel.  Therefore, additional research must be conducted to develop a synthetic fuel derived from biomass (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).  According to the author of “Greenery on the March”, the United States Armed Forces “could act as crucial early adopters for costly new green technologies” (“Greenery on the March”, 2009).  The United States Armed Forces has recognized the need to alleviate their dependence on fossil fuels and has already taken measures to do so by beginning pilot programs at bases across the United States.  While the extent of the environmental impact of fossil fuels is debatable, the vulnerability of the United States Armed Forces as a result of their reliance on fossil fuels is not.

Prior to reading the article, I didn’t realize the extent to which the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq depended on fossil fuels or the strategic benefits of investing in clean technology.  The author of the article, however, failed to consider both the cost and logistics involved with transporting and installing either photovoltaic solar panels or wind turbines in the Middle East.  What would stop terrorist organizations from attacking convoys carrying solar panels or wind turbine blades?  In addition, what would happen to the installed photovoltaic solar panels or wind turbines when the war in the Middle East comes to an end?

References:

[1] Greenery on the March. (2009, December 10). Retrieved from The Economist website: http://www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15048783



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One response to “Armed Forces’ Dependence on Fossil Fuels

  1. Joseph D. | 10.15.08
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