US Military Needs to Get Off Oil by 2040: Report

aerial refueling photo

photo: John Martinez Pavliga via flickr

The United States military must entirely get off oil by 2040 if it wants to reduce operational vulnerabilities, reduce costs, stop new security risks caused by climate change and avoid the coming peak oil supply crunch. That's the word from the Center For a New American Security, whose Fueling the Future Force report details the hows and whys of the situation.

afghan convoy attacked photo

DVIDSHUB via flickr
Petroleum is 77% of Military Energy Supply
Report authors Christine Parthemore and Dr. John Nagl say, "Reducing dependency on petroleum will help ensure the long-term ability of the military to carry out its assigned missions. Moving beyond petroleum will allow DoD to lead in the development of innovative technologies that can benefit the nation more broadly, while signaling to the world that the United States has an innovative and adaptable force."

How big is that dependency? Currently US forces rely on petroleum for 77.2% of all energy needs, with "other electric" sources coming in second at 11.4% and natural gas coming at 8.4%.

In Thirty Years Oil Will Be Hard to Come By
Why the 2040 timeframe? The report lays it out (emphasis is mine):

This 30-year timeframe reflects market indicators pointing towards both higher demand for petroleum and increasing international competition to acquire it. Moreover, the geology and economics of producing petroleum will ensure that the market grows tight long before petroleum reserves are depleted. Some estimates indicate that the current global reserve-to-production ratio--how fast the world will produce all currently known recoverable petroleum reserves at the current rate of production--is less than 50 years. Thus, given projected supply and demand, we cannot assume that oil will remain affordable or that supplies will be available to the United States reliably three decades hence. Ensuring that DOD can operation on non-petroleum fuels 30 years from today is a conservation hedge against prevailing economic, political and environmental trends, conditions and constraints.

In other words, 30 years from now there odds aren't good that there will be petroleum to fuel anything with much consistency or at minimum with any level of affordability. This echoes recently revealed reports that the German military is pretty freaked out about the prospect of peak oil as well.

Oil Price Rises Cost Military Millions, Dependency Creates Security Risks
As for costs of continued military oil dependence, the report notes that for every dollar increase in the price of petroleum an additional $130 million is added to the Department of Defense's operating costs.

The report itself outlines a twelve-point plan to transition the military off oil--which is frankly all pretty ordinary stuff for regular TreeHugger readers--as well as some of the security issues of continued oil dependency (Iran and Venezuela get further leverage over US) and logistical challenges (currently purchased vehicles require petroleum and have a long service life).

Read more: Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a Post-Petroleum Era [PDF]

soldier at dusk photo

photo: US Army via flickr
How Much Less Energy Needed, If We Didn't Have to Secure Oil?
Though it sounds somewhat cynical, I ask this quite practically: I wonder what how much the US military's energy demand and required size would be if part of its (not loudly or fully stated) mission weren't positioning itself around the world to secure the very energy supplies which are going to be relatively soon depleted? It's not like the military's purpose ceases to exist absent having to secure oil supplies, not by a long shot, but surely its size and fuel demand would be reduced.

TH NOTE: In a previous version of this article the names of the report authors were incorrectly stated. This has been corrected.
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More on Oil:
Minus Oil: Energized Ideas For Surpassing Petroleum
The German Military is Freaked Out by Prospect of Peak Oil
After Oil, The Extreme Risk of Biofuel Dependency

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