By Lee Patrick Sullivan, energyNow!
Increasing energy efficiency in the U.S. military has become as much about geopolitical strategy as it is about saving lives and money. That’s the perspective of the Pentagon’s top energy official, and it has major implications for the U.S. military’s drive to use less oil-based fuel.
energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan interviewed Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, about the military’s fight against fossil fuel dependence.
By becoming more energy efficient and diversifying its sources of energy, says Burke, the U.S. military deprives hostile nations of petro-dollars. “No matter where you buy your fuel…it’s priced on a global market,” she said. “Every gallon you buy is a dollar in Iran’s pocket, because it’s a global market, and it affects our interests.”
Supply lines have always been a target during war since people have been fighting, but what’s different today is the length of the supply line needed to reach U.S. forces deployed in remote areas around the world.
The military burns through about 50 million gallons of fuel a month in Afghanistan, and 70 percent of the total logistics movement is fuel or water. That oil dependence creates a human cost – more than 60 percent of the 3,000 U.S. combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have come from attacks on fuel convoys.
But the extended reach of U.S. forces isn’t the only issue facing Burke. Electricity generators, which constitute the power backbone of forward bases and outposts, are a particular problem. “That’s just throwing away fuel,” says Burke.
Burke says the U.S. Army has put $100 million into improving energy generation and distribution and expects payback within a year. The Pentagon’s optimism isn’t surprising, considering the Department of Defense spends $15 billion a year on energy, more than any other single organization in the world.
You can watch the full interview below: