The U.S. Department of Defense has released a new strategy for how the U.S. military will address growing concerns over energy consumption. The military remains the single largest consumer of energy in the world, and accounts for 1% of total consumption in the United States. As concerns continue to mount over oil prices and the instability of oil-rich countries in the Middle East, the Pentagon is looking for new methods to continue to meet the energy demands of the military.
The U.S. military currently relies on fossil fuels for almost all of their energy needs, spending more than $13 billion annually just on fuel. Military operations accounted for 121 million barrels of oil alone, which does not include the amount used for domestic activities such as military housing operations and transports. But the Department of Defense has known for years that their current path is not sustainable, and raised the alarm over peak oil long before the U.S. Department of Energy. Their new report shows that they are actively working to switch to renewable energy sources, and away from dirty oil sourced from unstable parts of the globe.
From the report:
To protect the Nation and our interests across this wide spectrum of challenges, the United States will need a broad portfolio of military capabilities with maximum versatility. America’s armed forces will have to be as adaptable and agile as they are lethal and robust. They will have to be capable of projecting and sustaining military force and humanitarian assistance in collaboration with allies and partners around the world.
To build and sustain this 21st century military force, particularly in an era of fiscal duress, the Department of Defense must use its resources wisely, and that includes energy resources. Almost every military capability requires energy of some kind, and, as a result, the Department of Defense, as an institution, is one of the single largest consumers of fuel in the world. Nonetheless, the Department tends to treat energy as a commodity that will always be readily available, regardless of the strategic, operational, and tactical costs. Today, those costs can too often be measured in lives lost guarding and moving fuel across the battlefield. In the future, adversaries, including those armed with precision weapons, may be even more capable of targeting military supplies.
At the same time, energy security is important to national security. While the Department is a significant consumer of energy, it only accounts for about one percent of the energy all Americans use. The cost of America’s national energy consumption, particularly of oil, is too high, both in the billions of dollars the Nation sends overseas and in the geostrategic consequences. The Department has an opportunity to reduce these costs, both in terms of real spending reductions and in leading the way for the nation.
The Pentagon has actually been on the front lines in the battle over climate change in the United States for more than a decade. During the Clinton administration, the Pentagon actively worked with scientists to monitor sea ice levels via top secret satellite images. This program was shut down shortly after President Bush took office, but was re-authorized after President Obama was sworn in.
Since at least 2004, the Pentagon has warned the government that abrupt, intense climate catastrophes could play out if the government took no actions, and the Pentagon actually had plans in place for how to deal with sudden disasters. They have consistently ranked global climate change as a “destabilizing force” that would have serious impacts on our national security.
Demonstrating that they aren’t just all talk on climate change, the Pentagon and U.S. military have been working on converting entire fleets of Navy vessels to run on fuel created by algae. They are also working with scientists to develop other biofuels and renewable energy sources to help power the military. Military leaders hope that within the next 10 years, more than half of the energy needs of the military will be met by renewable sources of energy.