Report: US Military to Get Off Petroleum by 2040

John Davis

A group that develops national security and defense policies says the American military needs to be ready for a future without petroleum. If recent tests … and testing to come … are any indication, our warfighters are already preparing for that contingency through the use of biofuels.

This article from EV World says the Center for New American Security’s (CNAS) 36-page study entitled “Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a Post-Petroleum Era” should be alarming:

Prepared in close consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as the major branches of U.S. Armed Forces and other government agencies, the key authors — Christine Pathemore and John Nagl — conclude that the military has three decades to dramatically reduce its dependence on petroleum, the fuel that powers 77 percent of the America’s fighting machinery.

Why the urgency and why get off of oil? Soberingly, CNAS analysts project the United States has just 11 years of reserve-to-production (R/P) capacity. Neighboring Canada, our largest external supplier, 28 years. Meanwhile, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia all have 100 years of R/P capacity.

Parthemore and Nagl state in the introduction to their paper…

To ready America’s armed forces for tomorrow’s challenges, DOD should ensure that it can operate all of its systems on non-petroleum fuels by 2040. This 30-year timeframe reflects market indicators pointing toward both higher demand for petroleum and increasing international competition to acquire it.

The report goes on to say that the DoD needs to also take into account the economic costs of petroleum: every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the Department of Defense an additional $130 million.

It looks like military planners are already preparing for the petroleum-less future. If you might remember from my post last March 25, 2010, the U.S. Air Force has flown the first A-10 … aka the Warthog … on a blend of biomass jet fuel. And Joanna’s article from yesterday points out the Navy will be testing a biofueled boat on Friday.