US Military Steps on the Gas


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 oil.

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:

"This 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.


July 18, 2008