Robert Bateman. Autumn 2013. Earth Island Journal.
Energy is the lifeblood of the US Military
The US military is the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines combined consume roughly 300,000 barrels of oil each day – about 120 million barrels annually. And each year the Department of Defense Energy churns through about 3.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.
In 2010, a year that actually represented something of a dip in usage, the US military used 5 billion gallons of fuel in combat zones. Most obviously, this is the fuel needed to run tanks and helicopters and armored personnel carriers. It also includes all the diesel required to fuel the generators to run the dining halls, keep the lights on, power tens of thousands of computers, and sustain air conditioning. The Pentagon annually spends up to $20 billion just to keep soldiers and Marines cool.
Every time the cost of a barrel of oil goes up $10, it adds about $1.3 billion to the DoD’s annual fuel costs. But what the Pentagon pays for an actual gallon of fuel is just a fraction of the total price, because of all the embedded logistical costs. In 2007, the DoD estimated that the real cost of providing fuel to forces in Western Iraq was literally hundreds of dollars per gallon.
During a 2010 energy security forum at the Pentagon, Admiral Mike Mullen, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the “fully burdened cost of diesel fuel approached $400 a gallon”.
The most fuel-hungry military devices are aircraft and tanks, but there is little way around the fuel burden of those systems.
Despite the best efforts of Army engineers, thus far there does not seem to be an even remotely economical way to drive an armored vehicle with electricity.