US Military Steps on the Gas

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With ongoing
rising fuel prices, many solutions are being sought to reduce our
dependence on foreign oil. While it is necessary, yea, even urgent,
in the long run all efforts will be negated by the one of most inefficient
and wasteful consumer of fossil fuels in the world.

No, I'm not
referring to China. I am talking about the US military.

In WWII, the
US daily military fuel consumption per service member was 1.67 gallons
each. Today, the consumption is slightly over 27 gallons per service
member per day. My rusty 1993 Chevy pickup truck could drive all
week on that, and still have gas left over to fill my lawn mower.
Now my truck is not fuel efficient by any means, but it has one
saving virtue — it is paid off. With my humble income I cannot afford
to buy a new, fuel-efficient car. The high monthly payments, along
with the extra car insurance coverage a car loan entails, would
negate any savings I'd realize in gas mileage. But as bad as the
mileage my old truck gets, it beats the US Army's mechanized vehicles
all hollow. The Army's Bradley fighting vehicle gets 1 mile
per gallon. The mighty Abrams tank gets a whopping 2 miles
per gallon. But it gets worse. It takes gasoline to fuel the transport
to get gasoline to the fighting vehicles. Napoleon once said
that an Army marches on its stomach. Little could he imagine that
in the future, modern mechanized armies would be so dependent on

In Iraq, alone,
the US military expends an estimated 1.7 million gallons a day.
Multiple that by whatever the current price of gasoline is as of
this moment, and you get a pretty good idea we are talking about
a lot of money, our money, is being spent. And that's
not counting the fuel the military uses on everyday operations and
military, air, and ship maneuvers worldwide outside of Iraq.
The US military in 2004 consumed 144 million barrels of oil. This
amount almost equals the consumption of the country of Greece! Then
add the loss of fuel through accidents and mishandling, such as
the 345,000 gallons of jet fuel negligently spilled this year at
Fort Drum located in upstate New York. I grimace remorsefully at
spilling drops of gas while refueling my lawn mower. The official
response to this multimillion-dollar fiasco was less than penitent:

one just showed a big spotlight on where we were seriously lacking
in our capability to add precision to our analysis and precision
to our ability to track these types of losses," said Colonel
James Meyer, the Defense Energy Support Center's director of operations.

So it took
an ongoing leakage of 345,000 gallons over several years to spotlight
this problem before the DESC noticed it? Would the DESC have noticed
it any sooner if the spilled fuel had been ignited, and was observed
from orbit by the Space Shuttle? I have my doubts.

What is bitterly
ironic is our gas guzzling military is occupying one of the richest
oil producing countries in the world, yet it's presence in Iraq
has succeeded it quad-tripling the cost of the very fuel it needs.
Notwithstanding the many energy solutions being promoted, we will
unlikely to ever see military vehicles, aircraft, and ships go "green"
or become fuel-efficient hybrids. In terms of logistics and supply,
such options would become a quartermasters and maintenance nightmare.
For military operations, fuel efficiency is often necessary sacrificed
for the sake of armor, armament, and speed needed for survival in
combat — thus ensuring the US military will continue to be the largest,
least efficient consumer of oil.

As a result, our
military's ongoing need for oil to fulfill its ever-expanding mission
to police the world will continue to make us dependent on fossil
fuels and foreign oil for years to come.


18, 2008

Shirtz [send him mail] is
a transplanted Californian teaching Graphic Communications in Northern
(Not “Upstate”) New York. His hobbies include arranging deck chairs
on sinking ships, tilting at windmills, and being fashionably late.

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