June 21, 2012
Credit: Credit: DOD photo/Navy Lt. Peter Scheu
Reducing energy consumption, not buying alterative fuels, is the only way the Pentagon can cut its fuel costs, says a report by think tank Rand Corp.
“Alternative liquid fuels do not offer [the Defense Department] a way to appreciably reduce fuel costs,” concludes the report, prepared for the U.S. Air Force. Instead, says Rand, the Air Force should use its resources to forge international security partnerships that promote the production and protect the supply of petroleum.
The report comes as Congress considers cutting Defense Department funding to kick-start domestic commercial production of biofuels as drop-in alternatives to conventional fuels (Aerospace DAILY, June 15).
Although alternative fuels are touted as improving national security by reducing reliance on imported petroleum, Rand sees “no credible scenario” in which the military would be unable to find the fuel needed to defend the U.S.
The U.S. produces more than 8 billion barrels of oil a day (bpd), and imports another 3 billion from secure supplies in Canada and Mexico, while the Pentagon consumes 340,000 barrels a day, Rand says.
Global oil production will peak between 2030 and 2050, Rand estimates. “Our analyses show that there is no threat on the horizon to the availability of bulk supplies of military fuels,” the report concludes. “With over 11 million bpd of secure petroleum supplies, we find it inconceivable that the U.S. military would not be able to access the fuels it requires to maintain readiness and perform its missions.”
If supplies did get tight, “the Defense Production Act contains provisions that would give the priority to the production and delivery of petroleum products to [the Defense Department] and its contractors.”
But Rand concedes the Pentagon “may have to pay a hefty price” to meet its fuel needs, and says the Air Force’s cost-cutting options are to invest in energy-efficient aircraft and equipment and conserve fuel in training and operations.
Although proponents argue that biofuels will provide price competition, Rand argues energy efficiency and conservation “are the only options that offer appreciable savings in [Defense Department and Air Force] expenditures for liquid fuels.”