The U.S. Military on Peak Oil and Climate Change

Preface. I find that of all the government branches, the military is the most realistic about the implications of Peak Oil and Climate Change.  The Department of Defense is also the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, spending about $20 billion on energy in 2011, and within the military, the air force consumes the most energy, $10 billion (84% liquid fuel, 12% electricity).  DuPont consumes as much energy as the Department of defense, so they’re not the only mega-consumer of petroleum (NRC 2013).

In 2017, the US military bought about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide by burning those fuels. The US Air Force purchased US$4.9 billion worth of fuel, and the navy US$2.8 billion, followed by the army at US$947m and the Marines at US$36m. The US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal (Neimark 2019 US military is a bigger polluter than as many as 140 countries.

This makes me think that when oil shortages begin, the military will take a large chunk of what exists, even though agriculture is clearly the top priority.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


CNA. May 2009. Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security. Center for Naval Analyses. 74 pages.

[ Excerpts from this document follow ]

The destabilizing nature of increasingly scarce energy resources, the impacts of rising energy demand, and the impacts of climate change all are likely to increasingly drive military missions in this century.

GENERAL CHARLES F. “CHUCK” WALD, USAF (RET.) Former Deputy Commander, Headquarters U.S. European Command (USEUCOM); Chairman, CNA MAB

Retired Air Force General Chuck Wald wants to see major changes in how America produces and uses energy. He wants carbon emissions reduced to help stave off the destabilizing effects of climate change.

“We’ve always had to deal with unpredictable and diverse threats,” Gen. Wald said. “They’ve always been hard to judge, hard to gauge. Things that may seem innocuous become important. Things that seem small become big. Things that are far away can be felt close to home. Take the pirates off the African coast. To me, it’s surprising that pirates, today, would cause so much havoc. It’s a threat that comes out of nowhere, and it becomes a dangerous situation.

“I think climate change will give us more of these threats that come out of nowhere. It will be harder to predict them. A stable global climate is what shaped our civilizations. An unstable climate, which is what we’re creating now with global warming, will make for unstable civilizations. It will involve more surprises. It will involve more people needing to move or make huge changes in their lives. It pushes us into a period of nonlinear change. That is hugely destabilizing.

“Our hands are tied in many cases because we need something that others have. We need their oil.

He gives another reason for major changes in our energy policy: He wants to reduce the pressure on our military.

“My perception is that the world, in a general sense, has assumed the U.S. would ensure the flow of oil around the world,” Gen. Wald said. “It goes back to the Carter Doctrine. I remember seeing the picture of the five presidents in the Oval Office. [He referred to a January photo, taken just before President Obama assumed office. Most people would not guess it was Jimmy Carter who said the U.S. would protect the flow of Persian Gulf oil by any means necessary. But he did. He recognized it as a vital strategic resource.

“And since that time, as global demand has grown, we see oil used more and more often as a tool by foreign leaders. And that shapes where we send our military. You look at the amount of time we spend engaged, in one way or another, with oil producing countries, and it’s staggering. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela gets a lot of our attention because he has a lot of oil. We spend a lot of money and a lot of time focused on him, and on others like him.

Gen. Wald cautions against simplistic responses to the challenge of energy dependency.

“The problem is dependence, and by that I mean our hands are tied in many cases because we need something that others have. We need their oil. But the solution isn’t really independence. We’re not going to become truly independent of anything. None of this is that simple. Reaching for independence can lead us to unilateralism or isolationism, and neither of those would be good for the U.S. The answer involves a sort of interdependence. We need a diversity of supply, for us and for everybody. We need clean fuels that are affordable and readily available, to us and to everybody. That’s not independence. It might even be considered a form of dependency-but we’d be dependent on each other, not on fossil fuels.”

Many of our overseas deployments were defined… by the strategic decision to ensure the free flow of oil to the U.S. and our allies.

VICE ADMIRAL RICHARD H. TRULY, USN (RET.) Former NASA Administrator, Shuttle Astronaut and the first Commander of the Naval Space Command

On DoD’s Efficiency Needs

Having served as commander of the space shuttle, retired Vice Admiral Richard Truly has traveled great distances on a single tank of fuel. His views on energy, however, are shaped by his time as Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and by a clear sense of how America’s energy choices affect troops on the ground. He believes the fastest gains for the U.S. military will come from a focus on energy efficiency.

This issue “is well recognized by a lot of the troops. They’ve seen friends getting hurt because of poor energy choices we’ve made in the past.”

“Efficiency is the cheapest way to make traction,” Adm. Truly said. “There’s a thousand different ways for the military to take positive action. And these are things that can help them from a war-fighter’s point of view and also make things cheaper in the long run.

“You can see the need by what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan on logistics,” he said. “We’ve put inefficient systems very deep into these regions. And as a result, we end up with long lines of fuel trucks driving in. And we have to protect those fuel trucks with soldiers and with other vehicles.”

Truly sees key obstacles in the way of change. “The Defense Department is the single largest fuel user in the country, but if you compare it to the fuel used by the American public, it’s a piker,” Adm. Truly said. “When you think of the companies that make heavy vehicles, DoD is an interesting customer to them, but it’s not how they make their money. These companies are in the business of selling large numbers of commercial vehicles. So even if our military wants a new semi with a heavy-duty fuel-efficient diesel engine, it’s not likely to happen unless there is enough interest from other sec sectors to justify mass production. The real demand, if it exists, comes from the other 99 percent of users. That’s the rest of us. The real big market is the American people, and it’s their attitude that needs to change.”

GENERAL PAUL J. KERN, USA (RET.) Former Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command

On the Vulnerability of Energy Inefficiency

In 1991, General Paul Kern commanded the Second Brigade of the 24th Infantry Division in its advance toward Baghdad—a sweeping left hook around Kuwait and up the Euphrates River Valley. It involved moving 5,000 people, plus materiel support, across 150 kilometers of desert. The route covered more ground than the Red Ball Express, which moved materiel across the Western European front in World War II.

“As we considered the route and began planning, our biggest concern was not our ability to fight the Iraqis; it was keeping ourselves from running out of fuel,” Gen. Kern said. “We also made a decision to never let our tanks get below half full, because we didn’t want to refuel in the middle of a fight.”

Meeting this commitment, given the fuel inefficiency of the Abrams tank, required stopping every two and a half hours. Fueling was done with 2,250-gallon HEMMT fuel tankers, which in turn were refueled by 5,000-gallon line-haul tankers (similar to those seen on U.S. highways).

“We set up and moved out in a tactical configuration, and were ready to fight whenever necessary,” Gen. Kern said. “To refuel, we would stop by battalions and companies. As we advanced, we laid out a system with roughly 15 stations for refueling. This was occurring almost continuously. We did it at night in a blinding sandstorm— having rehearsed it was key.”

The vulnerability of these slow-moving, fuel-intense supply lines has made Gen. Kern a strong advocate for increasing fuel efficiency in military operations. “The point of all this is that the logistics demands for fuel are so significant. They drive tactical planning. They deter determine how you fight. More efficiency can give you more options. That’s what you want as a commander.”

Gen. Kern used a different example—the 2003 northeast power outage, when 50 million people lost electric power—to highlight another energy impact on military operations. “I was running the Army Materiel Command,” Gen. Kern said. “We had a forward operation in Afghanistan, which would forward all the requisitions back here. They had a generator and a satellite radio to talk, but when the outage hit here in the U.S., they had no one to talk to. We quickly came up with back-up plans, but it showed me the vulnerability of the infrastructure here to support a deployments.

“In some cases, the need to communicate with supply depots is day-to-day. The Afghan operation then was very fragile. Access was very important. Everything was getting flown in, and because you couldn’t get a lot in with each trip, we wanted a continuous flow. That’s a factor in agility—if you have less materiel on the ground, you can be more agile. But with the limited supplies, you do want to be in constant contact. You want that continuous flow. When the power goes out here, or if we have a lengthy collapse of the grid, that flow of materiel affects our troops in important ways.”

Gen. Kern said agility (and continuous communications) will be increasingly important.

“If you think of humanitarian relief, you don’t know what the community needs. You can’t know that in advance, so you have to be agile. The same is true with asymmetrical threats—you don’t know what you’ll face. You build strong communications networks to help you respond quickly—that’s the planning you can do in advance. But these networks depend, for the most part, on our power grids. That’s a vulnerability we need to address.”

GENERAL GORDON R. SULLIVAN, USA (RET.) Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Former Chairman of the CNA MAB

On the Connections Between Energy, Climate, and Security

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan served as chairman of the Military Advisory Board that released National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. He started that process with little connection to the issue of climate change, but the briefings have stayed with him. He keeps reaching out for new information on the topic.

“What we have learned from the most recent reports is that climate change is occurring at a much faster pace than the scientists previously thought it could,” Gen. Sullivan said. “The Arctic is a case-in-point. Two years ago, scientists were reporting that the Arctic could be ice-free by 2040. Now, the scientists are telling us that it could happen within just a few years. The acceleration of the changes in the Arctic is stunning. “The climate trends continue to suggest the globe is changing in profound ways,” Gen. Sullivan said. He noted that these lead indicators should be enough to prompt national and global responses to climate change, and referenced military training to explain why. “Military professionals are accustomed to making decisions during times of uncertainty. We were trained to make decisions in situations defined by ambiguous information and little concrete knowledge of the enemy intent. We based our decisions on trends, experience, and judgment. Even if you don’t have complete information, you still need to take action. Waiting for 100 percent certainty during a crisis can be disastrous.” Gen. Sullivan said the current economic crisis is not a reason to postpone climate solutions.

“There is a relationship between the major challenges we’re facing,” Gen. Sullivan said. “Energy, security, economics, climate change—these things are connected. And the extent to which these things really do affect one another is becoming more apparent. It’s a system of systems. It’s very complex, and we need to think of it that way. “And the solutions will need to be connected. It will take the industrialized nations of the world to band together to demonstrate leadership and a willingness to change— not only to solve the economic problems we’re having, but to address the issues related to global climate change. We need to look for solutions to one problem that can be helpful in solving other problems. And here, I’d say the U.S. has a responsibility to lead. If we don’t make changes, then others won’t.” Gen. Sullivan tends to keep his discussions of climate change focused on the national security aspects. But he occasionally talks about it from a different perspective, and describes some of the projected changes expected to hit his native New England if aggressive measures are not embraced. “I have images of New England that stick with me,” Gen. Sullivan said. “Tapping sugar maples in winter. Fishing off the Cape. These were images I held close when I was stationed overseas. They were important to me then. And they are important to me now when I think of how we’ll respond to climate change. Those treasures are at risk. There’s a lot at stake.”

GENERAL CHARLES G. BOYD, USAF (RET.) Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Headquarters U.S. European Command (USEUCOM)

On Climate Change and Human Migrations

Retired Air Force General Chuck Boyd, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe, sees the effects of climate change in a particular context, one he came to understand while serving as executive director of the U.S. Commission on National Security/ 21st Century (commonly known as the Hart-Rudman Commission). The Commission’s reports, issued in advance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, predicted a direct attack on the homeland, noted that the risks of such an attack included responses that could undermine U.S. global leadership, and outlined preventative and responsive measures. He explains this context by telling the story of a dinner at the home of the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations.

“When I was at EUCOM, I formed a friendship with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Madame Sadako Ogata,” Gen. Boyd said. “I was seated next to her at this dinner. When I told her about the project, she said you cannot talk about security without talking about the movement of people. She said we had to come to Geneva to talk with her about it. “She’s this little bitty person with a moral presence that’s overwhelming,” said Gen. Boyd, after a pause. “She’s a bit like Mother Teresa in that way. So we went—we went to Geneva.

“We spent the day with her and a few members of her staff pouring over a map of the world,” he said. “We looked at the causes of dislocations—ethnic, national and religious fragmentation mostly. And we looked at the consequences. It was very clear that vast numbers of conflicts were being caused by these dislocations. She was very strategic in her thinking. And she made the point that this phenomenon—the movements of people—would be the single biggest cause of conflicts in the 21st century.”

For Gen. Boyd, climate change is an overlay to the map of dislocations and conflicts provided by Madame Ogata. “When you add in some of the effects of climate change —the disruption of agricultural production patterns, the disruption of water availability—it’s a formula for aggravating, in a dramatic way, the problem and consequences of large scale dislocation. The more I think about it, the more I believe it’s one of the major threats of climate change. And it’s not well understood.

“As water availability changes, people who need water will fight with people who have water and don’t want to share it. It’s the same with agriculture. When people move away from areas that can’t sustain life anymore, or that can’t sustain their standard of living, they move to areas where they are not welcome. People will fight these incursions. Their interaction with different cultures causes tension. It’s very much like the tension we see with religious fragmentation. It’s the same pattern of consequences Madame Ogata was describing, only on a larger scale. This is about instability. It is a destabilizing activity, with murderous consequences.”

VICE ADMIRAL DENNIS V. MCGINN, USN (RET.) Former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs

On Supporting Our Troops

Resource scarcity is a key source of conflict, especially in developing regions of the world. Without substantial change in global energy choices, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn sees a future of potential widespread conflict.

“Increasing demand for, and dwindling supplies of, fossil fuels will lead to conflict. In addition, the effects of global climate change will pose serious threats to water supplies and agricultural production, leading to intense competition for essentials,” said the former commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, and deputy chief of naval operations, warfare requirements and programs. “The U.S. cannot assume that we will be untouched by these conflicts. We have to understand how these conflicts could play out, and prepare for them.” With an issue as big as climate change, Adm. McGinn said, “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. And in this case, the U.S. has to be more than just part of the solution; we need to be a big part of it. We need to be a leader. If we are not, our credibility and our moral authority are diminished. Our political and military relationships are undermined by not walking the walk.”

He believes these issues of credibility have a direct impact on our military. It’s one of many reasons why he sees climate change and energy security as inextricably linked national security threats. “We have less than ten years to change our fossil fuel dependency course in significant ways. Our nation’s security depends on the swift, serious and thoughtful response to the inter-linked challenges of energy security and climate change. Our elected leaders and, most importantly, the American people should realize this set of challenges isn’t going away. We cannot continue business as usual. Embedded in these challenges are great opportunities to change the way we use energy and the places from which we get our energy. And the good news is that we can meet these challenges in ways that grow our economy and increases our quality of life.”

Adm. McGinn is clear about the important role to be played by the American public. “Our national security as a democracy is directly affected by our energy choices as individual citizens,” Adm. Mc- Ginn said. “The choices we make, however small they seem, can help reduce our dependence on oil and have a beneficial effect on our global climate.” Individually, it may be hard to see, but collectively we can all make a tangible contribution to our national security. One way of thinking about this is that our wise energy choices can provide genuine support for our troops. “A yellow ribbon on a car or truck is a wonderful message of symbolic support for our troops,” said Adm. McGinn. “I’d like to see the American people take it several steps further. If you say a yellow ribbon is the ‘talk,’ then being energy efficient is the ‘walk’. A yellow ribbon on a big, gas-guzzling SUV is a mixed message. We need to make better energy choices in our homes, businesses and transportation, as well as to support our leaders in making policies that change the way we develop and use energy. If we Americans truly embrace this idea, it is a triple win: it reduces our dependence on foreign oil, it reduces our impact on the climate and it makes our nation much more secure.”

Executive Summary

Our dependence on foreign oil

  • reduces our international leverage
  • places our troops in dangerous global regions
  • funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and who have attacked our troops and cost lives
  • weakens our economy, which is critical to national security
  • The market for fossil fuels will be shaped by finite supplies and increasing demand. Continuing our heavy reliance on these fuels is a security risk.

The Electric Grid

Our domestic electrical system is also a significant risk to our national security: many of our large military installations rely on power from a fragile electrical grid that is vulnerable to malicious attacks or interruptions caused by natural disasters. A fragile domestic electricity grid makes our domestic military installations, and their critical infrastructure, unnecessarily vulnerable to incident, whether deliberate or accidental.

Climate change

Destabilization driven by ongoing climate change has the potential to add significantly to the mission burden of the U.S. military in fragile regions of the world.

The effects of global warming will require adaptive planning by our military. The effects of climate policies will require new fuels and energy systems.

A business as usual approach to energy security poses an unacceptably high threat level from a series of converging risks.   Due to the destabilizing nature of increasingly scarce resources, the impacts of energy demand and climate change could increasingly drive military missions in this century.


Diversifying energy sources and moving away from fossil fuels where possible is critical to future energy security. While the current financial crisis provides enormous pressure to delay addressing these critical energy challenges, the MAB warns against delay. The economic risks of this energy posture are also security risks.

The U.S. consumes 25% of world oil production, yet controls less than 3% percent

And the supply is getting increasingly tight. Oil is traded on a world market, and the lack of excess global production makes that market volatile and vulnerable to manipulation by those who control the largest shares. Reliance on fossil fuels, and the impact it has on other economic instruments, affects our national security, largely because nations with strong economies tend to have the upper hand in foreign policy and global leadership. As economic cycles ebb and flow, the volatile cycle of fuel prices will become sharper and shorter.

What the military wants

  • First crack at trying out new technologies and vehicles, because the Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s single largest consumer of energy. DoD should also try to use less energy via distributed and renewable energy and use low-carbon liquid fuels
  • The military would like to see personal transport electrified to make more liquid fuels available for aircraft and the armed services.
  • Americans should be called upon again to use less fuel (to free up fuel for us, the military) like they did in WW II, when they also grew food locally in Victory Gardens, and contributed in other ways to the war effort

These steps could be described as sacrifices, frugality, lifestyle changes—the wording depends on the era and one’s perspective. Whatever the terminology, these actions made the totality of America’s war effort more successful. They shortened the war and saved lives.

Energy for America’s transport sector depends almost wholly on the refined products of

a single material: crude oil. Energy for homes, businesses, and civic institutions relies heavily on an antiquated and fragile transmission grid to deliver electricity. Both systems—transport and electricity—are inefficient. This assessment applies to our military’s use of energy as well.

Our defense systems, including our domestic military installations, are dangerously oil dependent, wasteful, and weakened by a fragile electrical grid.

In our view, America’s energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to national security—militarily, diplomatically, and economically. This vulnerability is exploitable by those who wish to do us harm. America’s current energy posture has resulted in the following national security risks:

  • U.S. dependence on oil weakens international leverage, undermines foreign policy objectives, and entangles America with unstable or hostile regimes.
  • Inefficient use and over-reliance on oil burdens the military, undermines combat effectiveness, and exacts a huge price tag—in dollars and lives.
  • S. dependence on fossil fuels undermines economic stability, which is critical to national security.
  • A fragile domestic electricity grid makes our domestic military installations, and their critical infrastructure, unnecessarily vulnerable to incident, whether deliberate or accidental.

Dependence on oil constitutes a threat to U.S. national security. The United States consumes 25% of the world’s oil production, yet controls less than 3% of an increasingly tight supply. 16 of the top 25 oil-producing companies are either majority or wholly state-controlled. These oil reserves can give extraordinary leverage to countries that may otherwise have little; some are using that power to harm Western governments and their values and policies.

Another troubling aspect of our oil addiction is the resulting transfer of wealth. American and overall world demand for oil puts large sums in the hands of a small group of nations; those sums, in the hands of certain governments or individuals, can be used to great harm. Iran’s oil exports, which reached an estimated $77 billion in 2008, provide 40 percent of the funding for a government that the U.S. State Department says is the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism”. Iran provides materiel to Hezbollah, supports insurgents in Iraq, and is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Saudi Arabian private individuals and organizations, enriched by the country’s $301 billion in estimated 2008 oil, reportedly fund organizations that promote violent extremism revenues [18]. The sad irony is that this indirectly funds our adversaries. As former CIA Director James Woolsey said, “This is the first time since the Civil War that we’ve financed both sides of a conflict”.

America’s strategic leadership, and the actions of our allies, can be greatly compromised by a need (or perceived need) to avoid antagonizing some critical oil suppliers. This has become increasingly obvious since the early 1970s, when the first OPEC embargo quadrupled oil prices, contributed to an inflationary spiral, and generated tensions across the Atlantic as European nations sought to distance themselves from U.S. policies not favored by oil-exporting nations.

Oil has been the central factor in the mutually supportive relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. While the Saudis have been key allies in the region since World War II and serve as one of the nation’s most critical oil suppliers, Saudi Arabia is also one of the most repressive governments in the world.

Sudan provides another example: in an effort to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide occurring in Darfur, the U.S. and most of Europe have limited or

halted investment in Sudan. However, China and Malaysia have continued to make investments worth billions of dollars (mainly in the oil industry) while actively campaigning against international sanctions against the country. Sudan, which depends upon oil for 96% of its export revenues, exports the vast majority of its oil to China and provides China with nearly 8% of its oil imports

While oil can enable some nations to flex their muscles, it can also have a destabilizing effect on their economic, social, and political infrastructure.

When the natural resource that caused the Dutch disease goes from boom to bust (as has been the case with oil), the economy and social fabric of the afflicted nation can be left in tatters.

Nigeria, which accounts for nearly 9 percent of U.S. oil imports, has experienced a particularly high level of economic and civil unrest related to its oil.

In addition to Dutch disease, Nigeria also shows another corrosive impact of oil. The large oil trade (and unequal distribution of its profits) has fueled the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an armed group that stages attacks against the foreign multinational oil companies and the Nigerian government. In one of its most serious actions September 2008, the MEND retaliated against a strike by the Nigerian military by attacking pipelines, flow stations, and oil facilities; they also claimed 27 oil workers as hostages and killed 29 Nigerian soldiers. The result was a decrease in oil production of 115,000 barrels per day over the week of attacks. In the years preceding this attack, instability caused by the MEND decreased oil production in the Niger Delta by 20%.

The MEND is but one example of a group operating in an unstable region that targets oil and its infrastructure for its strategic, political, military, and economic consequences. By 2007 in Iraq, in comparison to pre-2003 levels, effects from the war and constant harassment of the oil infrastructure by insurgent groups and criminal smuggling elements reduced oil production capacity in the northern fields by an estimated 700,000 barrels per day.

In 2006, al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula carried out a suicide bombing against the Abqaiq oil production facility in Saudi Arabia, which handles about two-thirds of the country’s oil production. Fortunately, due largely to the intense focus of the Saudis on hardening their processing facilities (to which they devote billions of dollars each year), the attack was suppressed before the bombers could penetrate the second level of security gates. However, both the Saudi level of protection and al Qaeda’s selection of the oil infrastructure as a target signify the strategic and economic value of such facilities.

These attacks have demonstrated the vulnerability of oil infrastructure to attack; a series of well-coordinated attacks on oil production and distribution facilities could have serious negative consequences on the global economy. Even these small-scale and mostly unsuccessful attacks have sent price surges through the world oil market. In the U.S., dependence on foreign oil has had a marked impact on national security policies.

Much of America’s foreign and defense policies have been defined, for nearly three decades, by what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address in January 1980, not long after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter made it clear that the Soviets had strayed into a region that held “great strategic importance”. He said the Soviet Union’s attempt to consolidate a position so close to the Straits of Hormuz posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.” He then made a declaration that went beyond a condemnation of the Soviet invasion by proclaiming the following: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. When President Carter made his declaration, the U.S. imported roughly 40 percent of its oil.

That percentage has since doubled. In fact, due to the increase in U.S. demand, the total annual volume of oil imported into the U.S. has tripled since the early 1980s. As a result, the stakes are higher, and the U.S. has accordingly dedicated an enormous military presence to ensure the unimpeded flow of oil-in the Persian Gulf and all across the globe. Our Commanders-in-Chief chose this mission not because they want America to be the world’s oil police; they did so because America’s thirst for oil leaves little choice.

Supply lines delivering fuel and other supplies to forward operating bases can stretch over great distances, often requiring permission for overland transport through one or more neighboring countries. As these lines grow longer, and as convoys traverse hotly contested territory, they become attractive targets to enemy forces. A Defense Science Board (DSB) task force identified this movement of fuel from the point of commercial procurement to the point of use by operational systems and forces as a grave energy risk for DoD. Ensuring convoy safety and fuel delivery requires a tremendous show of force. Today, armored vehicles, helicopters, and fixed-wing fighter aircraft protect the movement of fuel and other supplies. This is an extraordinary commitment of combat resources, and it offers an instructive glimpse of the true costs of energy inefficiency and reliance on oil.

Let us be clear here: logistics operations and their associated vulnerabilities are nothing new to militaries; they have always been a military challenge. Even if the military did not need fuel for its operations, some amount of logistics supply lines would still be required to ensure our forces have the supplies they need to complete their missions. However, the fuel intensity of today’s combat missions adds to the costs and risks. As in-theater demand increases, more combat troops and assets must divert to protect fuel convoys rather than directly engage enemy combatants. This reduces our combat effectiveness, but there is no viable alternative: our troops need fuel to fight.

The broad battle space in their wake required heavy security-the supply convoys bringing new supplies of fuel were constantly under threat of attack. The security measures necessary to defend this vast space slowed American movements and reduced the options available to Army and Marine field commanders. It prompted a clear challenge from Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis: “Unleash us from the tether of fuel” [36]. This “Unleash us from the tether of fuel”. This mile fuel convoys are exposed as they crawl along dangerous mountainous routes.

Combat. Forward operating bases-staging grounds for direct military engagement-contain communications infrastructure, living quarters, administrative areas, eating facilities and industrial activities necessary to maintain combat systems. All of these require electricity. The electricity used to power these facilities is provided by towed-in generators fueled by JP-8, the same fuel used by combat systems. The fuel used by these generators comes from the same vulnerable supply chain that provides liquid fuel for motorized vehicles.

A study of the 2003 I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) in Iraq found that only 10 percent of its ground fuel use was for the heavy vehicles that deliver lethal force, including M1A1 tanks, armored vehicles, and assault amphibious vehicles; the other 90 percent was consumed by vehicles-including Humvees, 7-ton trucks, and logistics vehicles-that deliver and protect the fuel and forces. It is the antithesis of efficiency: only a fraction of the fuel is used to deliver lethal force. A different study showed that, of the U.S. Army’s top ten battlefield fuel users, only two (numbers five and ten on the list) are combat platforms; four out of the top ten are trucks, many of them used to transport liquid fuel and electric generating equipment [39]. The use of electric power extends beyond the battlefield bases: an infantry soldier on a 72-hour mission in Afghanistan today carries more than 26 pounds of batteries, charged by these generators. The weight of the packs carried by these troops (of which 20 to 25% can be batteries) hinders their operational capability by limiting their maneuverability and causing muscular-skeletal injuries. Soldiers and marines may not be tethered directly to fuel lines, but they are weighed down by electrical and battery systems that are dangerously inefficient.

The military uses fuel for more than mobility. In fact, one of the most significant consumers of fuel at forward operating bases in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is not trucks or combat systems; it is electric generators.

In 2006, while commanding troops in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer submitted an urgent request because American supply lines were vulnerable to insurgent attack by ambush or roadside bombs. “Reducing the military’s dependence on fuel for power generation could reduce the number of road-bound convoys,” he said, adding that the absence of alternative energy systems means “personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate.

In addition to burdening our military forces, over-reliance on oil exacts a huge monetary cost, both for our economy and our military. The fluctuating and volatile cost of oil greatly complicates the budgeting process within the Department: just a $10 change in the per-barrel cost of oil translates to a $1.3 billion change to the Pentagon’s energy costs. Over-allocating funds to cover energy costs comes with a high opportunity cost as other important functions are under-funded; an unexpected increase results in funds being transferred from other areas within the Department, causing significant disruptions to training, procurement and other essential functions2. In addition to buying the fuel, the U.S devotes enormous resources to ensure the military receives the fuel it needs to operate. A large component of the logistics planning and resources are devoted to buying, operating, training, and maintaining logistics assets for delivering fuel to the battlefield-and these delivery costs exceed the cost of buying the commodity. For example, each gallon of fuel delivered to an aircraft in- flight costs the Air Force roughly $42; for ground forces, the true cost of delivering fuel to the battlefield, while very scenario dependent, ranges from $15 per gallon to hundreds of dollars per gallon. A more realistic assessment of what is called the “fully burdened price of fuel” would consider the costs attributable to oil in protecting sea lanes, operating certain military bases and maintaining high levels of forward presence. Buying oil is expensive, but the cost of using it in the battlespace is far higher.

The volatile fossil fuel markets have a major impact on our national economy, which in turn affects national security. Upward spikes in energy prices-tied to the wild swings now common in the world’s fossil fuel markets-constrict the economy in the short-term, and undermine strategic planning in the long-term. Volatility is not limited to the oil market: the nation’s economy is also wrenched by the increasingly sharp swings in price of natural gas and coal. This volatility wreaks havoc with government revenue projections, making the task of addressing strategic and systemic national security problems much more challenging. It also makes it more difficult for companies to commit to the long-term investments needed to develop and deploy new energy technologies and upgrade major infrastructure.

A significant and long-lasting trade deficit can put us at a disadvantage in global economic competitions. In 2008, our economy paid an average of $28.5 billion each month to buy foreign oil. This amount is expected to grow: while oil prices wax and wane periodically, in the long term, oil prices are trending upward. This transfer of wealth means America borrows heavily from the rest of the world, making the U.S. dependent economically.

We are also dependent economically on a global energy supply market increasingly susceptible to manipulation. In recent years, even the smallest incident overseas, such as just a warning of pipeline attack from the MEND in Nigeria, has caused stock markets to roil and oil prices to jump. Perhaps most worrisome in regard to the manipulation of the global oil trade are the critical chokepoints in the delivery system: 40 percent of the global seaborne oil trade moves through the Strait of Hormuz; 36 percent through the Strait of Malacca, and 10 percent through the Suez Canal. The economic leverage provided by the Strait of Hormuz has not been lost on Iran, which has employed the threat of closing down the shipping lane to prevent an attack on its nuclear program.

For the U.S., our economic might and easy access to natural resources have been important components of national strength, particularly over the last century. They have also allowed us to use economic aid and soft power mechanisms to retain order in fragile regions-thereby avoiding the need to use military power. When economies are troubled, domestic strife increases, prospects of instability increase, and international leverage diminishes. This is why the discussions of energy and economy have been joined, and is why both are matters of national security.

At military installations across the country, a myriad of critical systems must be operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They receive and analyze data to keep us safe from threats, they provide direction and support to combat troops, and stay ready to provide relief and recovery services when natural disasters strike or when someone attempts to attack our homeland. These installations are almost completely dependent on commercial electrical power delivered through the national electrical grid. When the DSB studied the 2003 blackout and the condition of the grid, they concluded it is “fragile and vulnerable… placing critical military and homeland defense missions at unacceptable risk of extended outage”.

As the resiliency of the grid continues to decline, it increases the potential for an expanded and/ or longer duration outage from natural events as well as deliberate attack. The DSB noted that the military’s backup power is inadequately sized for its missions and military bases cannot easily store sufficient fuel supplies to cope with a lengthy or widespread outage. An extended outage could jeopardize ongoing missions in far-flung battle spaces for a variety of reasons:

  • The American military’s logistics chains operate a just-in-time delivery system familiar to many global businesses. If an aircraft breaks down in Iraq, parts may be immediately shipped from a supply depot in the U.S. If the depot loses power, personnel there may not fill the order for days, increasing the risk to the troops in harm’s way.
  • Data collected in combat zones are often analyzed at data centers in the U.S. In many cases, the information helps battlefield commanders plan their next moves. If the data centers lose power, the next military move can be delayed, or taken without essential information.
  • The loss of electrical power affects refineries, ports, repair depots, and other commercial or military centers that help assure the readiness of American armed forces.

When power is lost for lengthy periods, vulnerability to attack increases.

Destabilization driven by ongoing climate change has the potential to add significantly to the mission burden of the U.S. military in fragile regions of the world. In our view, confronting these converging risks is critical to ensuring America’s energy- secure future.

The demand for oil is expected to increase even as the supply becomes constrained. A 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on peak oil, which considered a wide range of studies on the topic, concluded that the peak in production is likely to occur sometime before 2040. While that 30-year time-frame may seem long to some, it is familiar to military planners, who routinely consider the 30- to 40-year life span of major weapon systems. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), most countries outside of the Middle East have already reached, or will soon reach, the peak of their oil production. This includes the U.S., where oil production peaked in 1970.

Our 2007 report identified the national security risks associated with climate change. Chief among the report’s findings:

  • The NIA finds that climate change impacts—including food and water shortages, the spread of infectious disease, mass migrations, property damage and loss, and an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events—will increase the potential for conflict.
  • The impacts may threaten the domestic stability of nations in multiple regions, particularly as factions seek access to increasingly scarce water resources.
  • Projected impacts of climate change pose a serious threat to America’s national security.
  • Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.
  • Projected impacts of climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world. Climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

The NIA describes potential impacts on global regions. In describing the projected impacts in Africa, for example, it suggests that some rainfall-dependent crops may see yields reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020. In testimony before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Fingar said the newly established Africa Command “is likely to face extensive and novel operational requirements. Sub-Saharan African countries, if they are hard hit by climate impacts, will be more susceptible to worsening disease exposure. Food insecurity, for reasons both of shortages and affordability, will be a growing concern in Africa as well as other parts of the world. Without food aid, the region will likely face higher levels of instability, particularly violent ethnic clashes over land ownership.” This proliferation of conflicts could affect what Dr. Fingar described as the “smooth-functioning international system ensuring the flow of trade and market access to critical raw materials” that is a key component of security strategies for the U.S. and our allies. A growing number of humanitarian emergencies will strain the international community’s response capacity, and increase the pressure for greater involvement by the U.S. Dr. Fingar stated that “the demands of these potential humanitarian responses may significantly tax U.S. military transportation and support force structures, resulting in a strained readiness posture and decreased strategic depth for combat operations.” In addition, the NIA cites threats to homeland security, including severe storms originating in the Gulf of Mexico and disruptions to domestic infrastructure.

Admiral Blair, in his February 2009 testimony, referenced the NIA and described some of the potential impacts of energy dependency and climate change: “Rising energy prices increase the cost for consumers and the environment of industrial-scale agriculture and application of petrochemical fertilizers. A switch from use of arable land for food to fuel crops provides a limited solution and could exacerbate both the energy and food situations. Climatically, rainfall anomalies and constricted seasonal flows of snow and glacial melts are aggravating water scarcities, harming agriculture in many parts of the globe. Energy and climate dynamics also combine to amplify a number of other ills such as health problems, agricultural losses to pests, and storm damage. The greatest danger may arise from the convergence and interaction of many stresses simultaneously. Such a complex and unprecedented syndrome of problems could cause outright state failure, or weaken important pivotal states counted on to act as anchors of regional stability.

Some of the many ways climate change will adversely affect our military’s ability to carry out its already challenging missions: A changing Arctic forces a change in strategy. As the Arctic Ocean has become progressively more accessible, several nations are responding by posturing for resource claims, increasing military activity, expanding commercial ventures, and elevating the volume of international dialogue. Due to the melting ice, the U.S. is already reconsidering its Arctic strategy. The change in strategy will lead to a change in military intelligence, planning, and operations. The Arctic stakes are high: 22% of the world’s undiscovered energy reserves are projected to be in the region (including 13% of the world’s petroleum and 30% of natural gas).

Damage to and loss of strategic bases and critical infrastructure

As sea level rises, storm waves and storm surges become much more problematic. Riding in at a higher base level, they are much more likely to overflow coastal barriers and cause severe damage. Recent studies project that, by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by nearly 1 meter. A 1-meter rise in sea level would have dramatic consequences for U.S. installations across the globe,

Storm intensity affects readiness and capabilities. The projected increase in storm intensity can affect our ability to quickly deploy troops and materiel to distant theaters.

Increased conflict stretches American military. In other sections, we have noted the likelihood of increased global conflicts, which in turn increases the likelihood that American military forces will be engaging in multiple theaters simultaneously. In addition, at the very same time, there may be increased demands for American-led

humanitarian engagements in response to natural disasters exacerbated or caused by climate change.

The destabilizing nature of increasingly scarce energy resources, the impacts of rising energy demand, and the impacts of climate change all are likely to increasingly drive military missions in this century.

Many Americans recall World War II references to the Pacific Theater and European Theater. Climate change introduces the notion of a global theater; its impacts cannot be contained or managed regionally. It changes planning in fundamental ways. It forces us to make changes in this new, broader context.

Given the risks outlined earlier, diversifying our energy sources and moving away from fossil fuels where possible is critical to our future energy security.

Some energy choices could contradict future national climate goals and policies, which should lead us to avoid such energy options. Developing coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuels for the U.S. Air Force is a useful example.

Because of America’s extensive coal resources, turning coal into liquid aviation fuel is, on the surface, an attractive option to make the nation more energy independent.

However, unless cost-effective and technologically sound means of sequestering the resulting carbon emissions are developed, producing liquid fuel from coal would emit nearly twice as much carbon as the equivalent amount of conventional liquid fuel.

What does a new energy future look like? It will have a number of features, including:

Diversity. Electricity produced with sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power would produce substantially more of our nation’s electricity than today. Solar thermal facilities (these not only generate electricity during sunlight hours, they heat liquids that can be used to power steam generators at night) offer a current example of how the intermittency of some renewable sources can be overcome.

Additional low carbon solutions, such as nuclear energy, will also be part of a diversified energy portfolio.

Stability. Because the sources of these renewable energy technologies are free and abundant—in the U.S. and in many regions around the world—they would bring stability to our economy. This is quite the opposite of the current crude oil, coal, and natural gas markets, which are highly unstable.

Smarter use of energy resources. The wide-scale adoption of “smart grid” technologies (such as advanced electricity meters that can indicate which household appliances are on and communicate that information back to the grid) would allow power to be used with maximum efficiency, be able to heal the grid in the event of natural disasters and cyber attacks, and allow for all sources of electricity to provide power to the grid.

Electrification of ground transport. Relying on transport vehicles powered largely with electricity derived from this low carbon sector, such as plug-in hybrids, would reduce America’s need for imported oil for use in transportation.

Bio-based mobility fuels. For mobility applications that are likely to require liquid fuels into the foreseeable future—including aviation and military operations—non-food-based biofuels would be employed that are made with materials and processes that do not tax productive farmlands. To ensure that domestically produced fuel does not need to be transported to theaters of military operations, these bio-based fuels would be designed to match the specifications of military fuels (such as JP-8). In the interim, significant gains in mobility efficiency could make liquid petroleum fuels more available and affordable to the military when or if it is needed.

A U.S. Department of Energy study indicated that 20% of America’s electrical supplies could come from wind power by 2030. Similar, but less aggressive, growth curves can be projected for utility-scale solar power generation. Google, which has experience in scaling new technologies, reports that the U.S. can generate nearly all of its electrical power from non-carbon sources by 2030. While renewable energy generating plants currently cost more than their fossil counterparts, renewable energy production is expected to become competitive with traditional electricity

“Islanding some major bases is a great idea,” Magnus said. “You want to make sure that, in a natural or manmade disaster, the basic functions of an electrical grid can be conducted from a military installation. That’s a great idea. And a great challenge. And you can not only island, but be in a position where you can take energy from the grid when needed, and deliver energy back to the grid when you have a surplus. There will be tremendous resistance from the public utilities, so we need to find a way for everyone to benefit.

“It’s going to change the shorelines. It’s going to change the amount of snowmelt from mountains and glaciers. Some areas will experience increased rainfall, and some will experience increased drought. These are destabilizing events, even if they happen slowly. People in marginal economic areas will be hardest hit—and guess where we send our military? “The more instability increases, the more pressure there will be to use our military,” he said. “That’s the issue with climate change.

The U.S. is all about preventing big wars by managing instability. But as populations get more desperate, the likelihood of military conflicts will go up. We’ll have to cope with the ill effects of climate change.”

Resource scarcity is a key source of conflict, especially in developing regions of the world. Without substantial change in global energy choices, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn sees a future of potential widespread conflict. “Increasing demand for, and dwindling supplies of, fossil fuels will lead to conflict. In addition, the effects of global climate change will pose serious threats to water supplies and agricultural production, leading to intense competition for essentials,” said the former commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, and deputy chief of naval operations, warfare requirements and programs. “The U.S. cannot assume that we will be untouched by these conflicts. We have to understand how these conflicts could play out, and prepare for them.”

“We have less than ten years to change our fossil fuel dependency course in significant ways. Our nation’s security depends on the swift, serious and thoughtful response to the inter-linked challenges of energy security and climate change. Our elected leaders and, most importantly, the American people should realize this set of challenges isn’t going away. We cannot continue business as usual.

We can invest more heavily in technologies that may require more patience and risk than most traditional investors can tolerate. The Department can provide essential aid in moving important new energy systems through what venture capitalists call “the valley of death”-the period after prototyping and before fully developing the product to scale. DoD also excels at the combination of speed and scale-building a huge or complex system in a short period of time. This challenge to hit speed and scale is the same challenge facing developers of new energy technologies.

Task Force has been pursuing a number of projects, including testing exterior spray foam to insulate temporary structures such as tents and containerized living units. Based on an estimated energy savings of 40 to 75%, Multi-National Force Iraq awarded a $95 million contract to insulate nine million square feet of temporary structures. The use of spray foam is estimated to have taken about 12 fuel transport trucks off the road every day in Iraq.

Tinker and Robins Air Force Bases have worked with their neighboring utilities to install 50 to 80 MW combustion gas turbines with dual fuel capability that allow the bases to disconnect from grid (that is, “island” from the grid) in the event of an emergency;

The Army is playing a role in providing an early market for the nascent electric vehicle market. In January 2009, the Army announced the single largest acquisition of neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) [102]. By 2011, the Army will have acquired 4,000 NEVs, which cost nearly 60-percent less to operate than the gasoline-powered vehicles they will replace.

The U.S. Air Force has demonstrated national leadership in adopting renewable energy at their installations.

“Aircraft carriers or nuclear subs at a port like Norfolk are a real challenge to the electrical system,” Adm. Nathman said. When those ships shut down and start pulling from the grid, it’s an enormous demand signal. And you can’t have interruptions in that power, because that power supports nuclear reactor operations.”

The U.S. military will be able to procure the petroleum fuels it requires to operate in the near-and mid-term time horizons. However, as carbon regulations are implemented and the global supplies of fossil fuels begin to plateau and diminish in the long-term, identifying an alternative to liquid fossil fuels is an important strategic choice for the Department.

Recognizing this circumstance, DARPA has signaled that it will invest $100 million in research and development funding to derive JP-8 from a source other than petroleum. In early 2009, DARPA awarded more than half of that funding to three firms in an effort to develop price-competitive JP-8 from non-food crops such as algae and other plant-based sources.

The ongoing research efforts and progress to date by DoD in finding alternative liquid fuels, however, should not be interpreted to mean that this will be an easy task to accomplish. The equipment and weapons platforms of the Services are complex in both their variety and their operational requirements. For example, when considering the U.S. Navy, the fleet uses 187 types of diesel engines, 30 variations of gas/steam turbine engines, 7,125 different motors (not to mention the various types of nuclear reactors for aircraft carriers and submarines). The Navy also procures liquid fuels for its carrier- and land-based aircraft, which feature a mix of turbojet, turboprop, turboshaft, and turbofan engines. Finding a fuel that contains the appropriate combination of energy content (per unit mass and volume) is a challenging area of research.

How America responds to the challenges of energy dependence and climate change will shape the security context for the remainder of this century; it will also shape the context for U.S. diplomatic and military priorities.

Over dependence on imported oil-by the U.S. and other nations-tethers America to unstable and hostile regimes, subverts foreign policy goals, and requires the U.S. to stretch its military presence across the globe; such force projection comes at great cost and with great risks. Within the military sector, energy inefficient systems burden the nation’s troops, tax their support systems, and impair operational effectiveness. The security threats, strategic and tactical, associated with energy use were decades in the making; meeting these challenges will require persistence.

Both the defense and civilian systems have been based on dangerous assumptions about the availability, price, and security of oil and other fossil fuel supplies. It is time to abandon those assumptions.


Finding 1: The nation’s current energy posture is a serious and urgent threat to national security. The U.S.’s energy choices shape the global balance of power, influence where and how troops are deployed, define many of our alliances, and affect infrastructure critical to national security. Some of these risks are obvious to outside observers; some are not. Because of the breadth of this finding, we spell out two major groupings of risk.

Finding 1A: Dependence on oil undermines America’s national security on multiple fronts. America’s heavy dependency on oil—in virtually all sectors of society—stresses the economy, international relationships, and military operations—the most potent instruments of national power. Over dependence on imported oil—by the U.S. and other nations— tethers America to unstable and hostile regimes, subverts foreign policy goals, and requires the U.S. to stretch its military presence across the globe; such force projection comes at great cost and with great risks. Within the military sector, energy inefficient systems burden the nation’s troops, tax their support systems, and impair operational effectiveness. The security threats, strategic and tactical, associated with energy use were decades in the making; meeting these challenges will require persistence. Both the defense and civilian systems have been based on dangerous assumptions about the availability, price, and security of oil and other fossil fuel supplies. It is time to abandon those assumptions.

Finding 1B: The U.S.’s outdated, fragile, and overtaxed national electrical grid is a dangerously weak link in the national security infrastructure. The risks associated with critical homeland and national defense missions are heightened due to DoD’s reliance on an electric grid that is out-dated and vulnerable to intentional or natural disruptions. On the home front, border security, emergency response systems, telecommunications sys tems, and energy and water supplies are at risk because of the grid’s condition. For military personnel deployed overseas, missions can be impaired when logistics support and data analysis systems are affected by grid interruptions. An upgrade and expansion of the grid and an overhaul of the regulations governing its construction and operations are necessary enablers to growth of renewable energy production—which is also a key element of a sound energy and climate strategy. Others have made compelling arguments for this investment, citing the jobs growth and environmental benefits. We add our voices, but do so from a different perspective: Improving the grid is an investment in national security.

Finding 2: A business as usual approach to energy security poses an unacceptably high threat level from a series of converging risks. The future market for fossil fuels will be marked by increasing demand, dwindling supplies, volatile prices, and hostility by a number of key exporting nations. Impending regulatory frameworks will penalize carbon-intensive energy sources. Climate change poses severe security threats to the U.S. and will add to the mission burden of the military. If not dealt with through a systems-based approach, these factors will challenge the U.S. economically, diplomatically, and militarily. The convergence of these factors provides a clear and compelling impetus to change the national and military approach to energy.

Finding 3: Achieving energy security in a carbon-constrained world is possible, but will require concerted leadership and continuous focus. The value of achieving an energy security posture in a future shaped by the risks and regulatory framework of climate change is immense. The security and economic stability of the U.S. could be improved greatly through large-scale adoption of a diverse set of reliable, stable, low-carbon, electric energy sources coupled with the aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency. The electrification of the transportation sector would alleviate the negative foreign policy, economic, and military consequences of the nation’s current oil dependency. While this future is achievable, this transformation process will take decades; it will require patience, stamina, and the kind of vision that bridges generations. Ensuring consistency of the nation’s energy security strategy with emerging climate policies can also serve to broaden the base of support for sensible new energy development and help to unify a wide range of domestic policies.

Finding 4: The national security planning processes have not been sufficiently responsive to the security impacts of America’s current energy posture. For much of the post-World War II period, America’s foreign and defense policies were aimed at protecting stability where it existed, and promoting it where it did not. Our national security planning process has continuously evolved to mitigate and adapt to threats as they arose. From the perspective of energy security, this process has left the nation in a position where our energy needs undermine: our national ideals, our ability to project influence, our security at home, our economic stability, and the effectiveness of our military. America’s current energy and climate policies make the goal of stability much more difficult to achieve. While some progress has been made to recognize the risks of our energy posture (including within the U.S. military), the strategic direction of the nation has yet to change course sufficiently to avoid the serious threats that will arise as these risks continue to converge.

Finding 5: In the course of addressing its most serious energy challenges, the Department of Defense can contribute to national solutions as a technological innovator, early adopter, and test-bed. The scale of the energy security problems of the nation demands the focus of the Defense Department’s strong capabilities to research, develop, test, and evaluate new technologies. Historically, DoD has been a driving force behind delivering disruptive technologies that have maintained our military superiority since World War II. Many of these technical breakthroughs have had important applications in the civilian sector that have strengthened the nation economically by making it more competitive in the global marketplace. The same can be true with energy. By pursuing new energy innovations to solve its own energy security challenges, DoD can catalyze some solutions to our national energy challenges as well. By addressing its own energy security needs, DoD can stimulate the market for new energy technologies and vehicle efficiency tools offered by innovators. As a strategic buyer of nascent technologies, DoD can provide an impetus for small companies to obtain capital for expansion, enable them to forward-price their proven products, and provide evidence that their products enjoy the confidence of a sophisticated buyer with stringent standards. A key need in bringing new energy systems to market is to achieve speed and scale: these are hallmarks of American military performance.

Priority 1: Energy security and climate change goals should be clearly integrated into national security and military planning processes. The nation’s approach to energy and climate change will, to a large extent, shape the security context for the remainder of this century. It will shape the context for diplomatic and military engagements, and will affect how others view our diplomatic initiatives-long before the worst effects of climate change are visible to others. Strategy, National Military Strategy, and Quadrennial Defense Review should more realistically describe the nature and severity of the threat

Priority 2: DoD should design and deploy systems to reduce the burden that inefficient energy use places on our troops as they engage overseas. Because the burdens of energy use at forward operating bases present the most significant energy related vulnerabilities to deployed forces, reducing the energy consumed in these locations should be pursued as the highest level of priority. In the operational theater, inefficient use of energy can create serious vulnerabilities to our forces at multiple levels. The combat systems, combat support systems, and electrical generators at forward operating bases are energy intensive and require regular deliveries of fuel; the convoys that provide this fuel and other necessary supplies are long and vulnerable, sometimes requiring protection of combat systems such as fixed wing aircraft and attack helicopters. Individual troops operating in remote regions are subject to injury and reduced mobility due to the extreme weight of their equipment (which can include up to 26 pounds of batteries).

We encourage readers to view our earlier report: “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.”)

NRC. 2013. Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop. National Research Council

Military Advisory Board (MAB) Members

CHAIRMAN: General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (Ret.) Former Deputy Commander, Headquarters U.S. European Command (USEUCOM)

General Charles G. Boyd, USAF (Ret.) Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Headquarters U.S. European Command (USEUCOM)

Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr., USAF (Ret.) Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force

General Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.) Former Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command

General Ronald E. Keys, USAF (Ret.) Former Commander, Air Combat Command

Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, USN (Ret.) Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe

General Robert Magnus, USMC (Ret.) Former Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps

Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn, USN (Ret.) Former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs

Admiral John B. Nathman, USN (Ret.) Former Vice Chief of Naval Operations and Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces

Rear Admiral David R. Oliver, Jr., USN (Ret.) Former Principal Deputy to the Navy Acquisition Executive

General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.) Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, and Former Chairman of the CNA MAB

Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.) Former NASA Administrator, Shuttle Astronaut and the first Commander of the Naval Space Command

MAB Executive Director: Ms. Sherri Goodman, General Counsel, CNA. Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security

We would also like to thank the following persons for briefing the Military Advisory Board (in order of appearance):

Dr. Martha Krebs, Deputy Director for Research and Development, California Energy Commission and former Director, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy; Mr. Dan Reicher, Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives,, and former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Director, Climate Protection Partnerships Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; The Honorable Kenneth Krieg, Distinguished Fellow, CNA, and former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; Dr. Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, and former Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Mr. Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman, Interface, Inc.; Mr. Jeffrey Harris, Vice President for Programs, Alliance to Save Energy; Dr. Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Environment, University of Manitoba; Mr. Kenneth J. Tierney, Corporate Senior Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Energy Conservation, Raytheon; Dr. Ben Schwegler, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development; Mr. Fred Kneip, Associate Principal, McKinsey; The Honorable John Deutch, Institute Professor, MIT, former Director of Central Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Mr. David Hawkins, Director, Climate Programs, Natural Resources Defense Council; Dr. Jeffrey Marqusee, Executive Director of the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Director of the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP); Mr. Michael A. Aimone, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, Headquarters U.S. Air Force; Mr. Alan R. Shaffer, Principal Deputy Director, Defense Research and Engineering, Office of Director of Defense Research and Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; Mr. Christopher DiPetto, Deputy Director, Developmental Test & Evaluation, Systems and Software Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; and, The researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Ms. Bobi Garret, Mr. Dale Garder, Dr. Rob Farrington, Dr. Mike Cleary, Mr. Tony Markel, Dr. Mike Robinson, Dr. Dave Mooney, Dr. Kevin Harrison, Mr. Brent Nelson, Mr. Bob Westby

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2 Responses to The U.S. Military on Peak Oil and Climate Change

  1. Permavillage says:

    Doesn’t it lose credibility when someone writes in 2009 “We have less than ten years to change our dependence on fossil fuels significantly” and in 2019 nothing has changed and everything continues as before?

    • energyskeptic says:

      No, calling the peak correctly, like picking a winning horse at a race is not important at all. What matters is that we know oil, coal, and natural gas are finite for certain. Clearly so since we’re going after the dregs, which are much more expensive to obtain and refine. Yet society is utterly, completely dependent on them for transportation, manufacturing, and half a million products made out of fossil fuels as both feedstock and energy source to create them. Nothing is being done, nothing is being prepared, rationing plans aren’t being planned. Which makes WWIII and nuclear war over the remaining oil more likely.