As the world witnesses Russia’s senseless and shockingly confused invasion of Ukraine, military logisticians around the world sigh: “You see? That’s what we told you. “
Two weeks ago, the Russian bear withdrew from key targets that Western intelligence once estimated would fall in a matter of days. How the Russian military left close to a similar power plant to side show in so little time?
The answer is fuel. Russian planners fell victim to the classic mistake of the war: neglecting their logistics. Their overconfidence and lack of preparation to deliver it were their Achilles heel, limping any hope of a quick Russian victory. Within days of their February invasion, Russian forces were blocked and left without fuel (not to mention food and water). Their forces are stationed in massive, stagnant convoys, seemingly helpless to repel drone strikes, guerrilla attacks and decaying morale. Exhausted by its fossil fuels, the Russian military machine stopped.
Military logistics have long lamented the stupidity of fossil fuel dependence. When James Mathis was a major general in command of the 1st Naval Expeditionary Force in Iraq, he asked Navy investigators to release the military.from the fuel rope“Acquisition, transportation and protection tens of millions of barrels of fuel every year it puts enormous pressure on our military resources. Only from 2003 to 2007 nearly 10% of the American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan come from fuel and water missions. Dr Neta Crawford, co-director of the Brown University War Costs Project, estimates that a quarter of the oil consumed by the US military is used only to protect access to oil.
Fossil fuels are not just a vulnerability on the battlefield; they are also a strategic straitjacket. OPEC-controlled fuel prices can turn the heads of the big economies upside down. The decisions of the executive directors of fossil fuels can cause major changes in foreign policy. In 1941, Japan declared war because America was threatening fuel supplies.
The United States and our NATO allies are not immune to this dependence. Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels means Russian oil and gas were released from sanctions, leaving a gaping hole in our attempts to isolate Russia’s economic president, Vladimir Putin. The US Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the worldand we estimate that up to a quarter of the energy used by US installations in Europe comes from Russian sources. As the invasion of Ukraine raises global fuel prices, US taxpayers are inadvertently stuffing Putin’s pockets.
The world’s addiction to fossil fuels and Russia’s ability to profit from this dependence pose an unacceptable risk to American and global security. We must treat our over-dependence on fossil fuels as a threat to national security as it is. Independent, clean and sustainable energy is a huge victory for America’s national interests, which all countries – left or right – must defend.
First, we need to make our bases energy independent. The Ministry of Defense has already proven the value of sustainable micro-networks; it is time to establish them in every base so that they can work, even if the civic networks fall apart. Bases and non-tactical vehicles must be fully electrified so that their power can come from anywhere. And each base must be able to generate its own energy with clean energy. The technology is ready: The Pacific Navy Missile Range can now run on batteries and solar and renewable energy at Fort Hood kept the lights on during last year’s ice storm in Texas.
Secondly, we must use every opportunity to separate operations from fossil fuels. Part of this can be achieved simply through efficiency and better planning: Defense Jigsaw software can reduce air refueling needs with 10% just by organizing flights intelligently. The military has already set itself the goal of electrifying tactical vehicles by 2050. In difficult areas such as jet fuel, we can deploy proven alternatives such as synthetic aviation fuels, which have already been tested as “ready for release” by the military to bridge the gap. while the Department of Defense is perfecting technologies such as carbon capture and transformation that they literally create fuel from the air.
Third, the military is never completely independent of the economies that power it. True energy security requires America and our allies to decarbonise with the military. The Ministry of Defense can help by using the power of its incredible supplies to move producers and support electrification at home and abroad.
Every day we linger, we spend more money on equipment and infrastructure that shuts us down depending on fossil fuels and strategic vulnerabilities. How long do we wait before freeing ourselves – and the world – from the fossil fuel rope?
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Theodore Doc Shanks is a C-17A command pilot, as well as a national defense associate and visiting scientist at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, where he studies climate security and the effects of Air Force operations. against global climate change. Alexander Gard-Murray is a political economist at the University’s Climate Solutions Laboratory, where he studies climate change, distribution policy and policy options to accelerate decarbonization. The views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the United States Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force.
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