Friday, June 22, 2007

The Pentagon: The world's hummer

Michael Klare has an article on how oil-intense the US war machine is:
Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.
Ever since the Royal Navy converted to oil-fired battleships, we've been on this path: the militaries of the world have, as one of their core functions, the seizure of protection of oil deposits. The British took Iraq, the Americans made a deal with the Saudis, the Nazis tried to take the Soviet Caucasus, and Japan briefly succeeded in taking Indonesia. What Klare is talking about is nothing new, it's just that now, with oil increasingly concentrated in one area (the Middle East is expected to have more than 50% of the world's oil reserves by 2050, instead of 20% now) the impulse is even more urgent.

There's also the problem, as Klare documents, that America's increasingly-imperial military posture (global strike, full-spectrum dominance) is by definition more energy-intense -- and the only energy that matters in this case is oil.
As summarized by LMI, implementation of the Bush Doctrine requires that "our forces must expand geographically and be more mobile and expeditionary so that they can be engaged in more theaters and prepared for expedient deployment anywhere in the world"; at the same time, they "must transition from a reactive to a proactive force posture to deter enemy forces from organizing for and conducting potentially catastrophic attacks." It follows that, "to carry out these activities, the U.S. military will have to be even more energy intense.... Considering the trend in operational fuel consumption and future capability needs, this ‘new' force employment construct will likely demand more energy/fuel in the deployed setting."

The resulting increase in petroleum consumption is likely to prove dramatic. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the average American soldier consumed only four gallons of oil per day; as a result of George W. Bush's initiatives, a U.S. soldier in Iraq is now using four times as much. If this rate of increase continues unabated, the next major war could entail an expenditure of 64 gallons per soldier per day.
I think we're likely to see the Pentagon increasingly looking at alternative fuels, and even some of the more unlikely technological prospects -- anneutronic fusion may be quackery, but for the kind of money it will take to test it, the Pentagon usually only gets a Powerpoint slideshow and some bagels.

1 comment:

Flinger said...

I cannot tell you how creepy this is -- we've come full circle; the Pentagon is contributing to its reason for existence. Self-perpetuating patterns will self-perpetuate with or without a conscious intent to do so, and bureaucracies are no exception. One more monstruous headless parasite to worry about.