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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pentagon Doesn't Want Dirty Fuels No Matter How Much Congress Loves Them

Pentagon Doesn't Want Dirty Fuels No Matter How Much Congress Loves Them

by Matt Osborne, Vet Voice, July 28, 2011

Remember when gas was 99 cents a gallon? Those days are gone forever. The Pentagon, America's (and the world's) top government consumer of petroleum, has been first to recognize the emerging national security threat of American oil dependence, but House Republicans and fossil-fuel Democrats are eager to ignore the military's judgment on this matter.

The discovery of large "elephant field" reserves peaked in the 1970s at about the same time production peaked in the United States. Today, more than half the world's oil has been pumped out of the ground. We could literally drill the United States, the Arctic, and the rest of the world to death without ever raising the production curve; meanwhile, human population continues to grow, which increases demand. This is called "peak oil," and it's a dangerous situation that Shell Oil publicly acknowledged this year:
Shell predicts that as the energy industry struggles to meet global demand, "environmental tension will swell and spread." 
They add: "Political, industrial and individual choices will determine whether these tensions can be resolved and whether the solutions will be benign or harmful to us." 
Within what they called a "zone of uncertainty," energy entrepreneurs will have "extraordinary opportunity" for growth if the right assemblage of technology is made available. However, Shell adds that competition and "natural innovation" in energy efficiency would only account for a moderation in demand of about 20 percent by 2050. 
Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2050, demand for easily accessible energy will triple, they predict. (Emphasis is the author's)

No one can repeal the laws of supply and demand: prices at the pump will never go down. With the easily-accessed oil draining away, energy companies must go further and deeper to reach new reserves. That means more and more energy must be consumed to recover the same gallon of fuel. The controversial Canadian tar sands, for example, require fifteen times as much energy as traditional petroleum. Coal-to-liquid technologies aren't much better.

That's why Henry Waxman inserted Section 526 into the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act to require the Pentagon use efficient fuels that don't spew more carbon into the atmosphere than conventional fuels. Tom Hicks, the Navy's deputy assistant secretary for energy, defended the provision at a hearing last month:
"We are comfortable with 526," he said, referring to Section 526 of 2007's Energy Independence and Security Act. "It is an effective policy tool, it is having an effect on the market that I think is one in the right direction."
Hicks told the Energy and Power Subcommittee Friday that the Navy is not interested in coal-based transportation fuels, citing costs, greenhouse gases and other problems with coal-to-liquids, a decades-old technology.
The Pentagon has eagerly invested in alternative energy: the Air Force and the Navy want half their energy from biofuel by 2016, the Army has committed to "Net Zero" installations that consume only as much energy or water as they produce, and the Marine Corps already has alternative and renewable energy systems deployed in the AF-PAK theatre.

None of this has interfered with the military's ability to meet its mission -- as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King has told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources. Indeed, since it takes an estimated $400 to transport one gallon of fuel to troops in Afghanistan and we spend about $20 billion annually to provide troops in theater with air conditioning, the value of Section 526 to our security is obvious.

Or ought to be, anyway. Some politicians are more interested in kickstarting a coal-to-liquid industry in the United States -- and "accessing" tar sands oil -- than our national security. They want to do away with Section 526:
On the House side, for instance, several Department of Defense- and Department of Agriculture-related appropriations and authorization bills contain a provision to repeal Section 526. And Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming is looking for openings to tack a similar amendment onto legislation in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The military could lead American development of new technologies and usher a renaissance in American energy. Turning away from that isn't just shortsighted, it's actually nihilistic (and, I would argue, un-American). Peak oil is not the future, it is the now.
Matt Osborne :: Pentagon Doesn't Want Dirty Fuels No Matter How Much Congress Loves Them

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