Two reports this week clearly indicate that the U.S. military is aware of the peak oil threat and is seriously pursuing development of alternative fuel and energy sources. The immediate costs of transporting fuel on the battlefield as well as the long-term costs of foreign oil dependency (and oil scarcity) have prompted a pragmatic shift to synthetic and biofuel testing.
As The Guardian reported this week, the U.S. navy has successfully tested an algae-based biodiesel fuel mix in a 49-ft gunboat at its Norfolk, Virginia naval base. This is one of the first steps toward the navy's goal of running half its fleet on non-petroleum sources by 2020. Today's cost of a gallon of algae-diesel fuel mix is $424, not far from the estimated $400 it now costs to get a gallon of gasoline to a war zone. The navy has committed to purchasing 150,000 gallons of domestic algae-based fuel, the costs of which should scale down as production ramps up.
Earlier this year, the navy tested biofuel in an F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the air force began flying A-10 Warthogs on a synthetic biofuel blend as part of its 2012 goal to certify all USAF aircraft for alternative fuels. The Marines have become more energy efficient by using geothermal tubes and solar tent shields, reducing the need for fuel-powered generators in the field.
The world price of oil is cited as a major factor in the military's policy shift. Even at today's $80 per barrel cost of oil, the military is spending hundreds of dollars per day, per soldier in Afghanistan, on fuel. As the world's largest single buyer of oil, the U.S. military has warned, "surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear" by 2012, according to the U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Operating Environment 2010 report (p. 29). Climate change is also cited as "one of the ten trends most likely to impact the Joint Force" (p. 32).
Readers wishing to know more can review the report's Part II: Trends Influencing The World's Security: Energy, Climate Change and Natural Disasters sections.
The military's plans for becoming energy-independent tie in to the fact that the petroleum reserve-to-production ratio of the U.S. is just 11 years, according to a September 2010 report. This would make the U.S., and the Department of Defense, increasingly dependent on foreign oil if no domestic alternatives are developed.
If the Joint Forces Command has acknowledged the data behind peak oil and climate change, and is planning accordingly, shouldn't we, as voting citizens, demand the same of our elected representatives in government? What do you think?
Â©2010 Jim Hathaway for Gather.com