Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peak Oil and the Pentagon

In Le Monde, the classic French publication, there is an extended article on the Pentagon concerns about peak oil, and the fact that they are one of the more pessimistic part of (any) government about the problem.   Presumably they take the requirement to keep their ships and tanks moving seriously.
In the Joint Operating Environment 2008 report [p. 17 ] and JOE2010 [pp. 28, 29 ], one can read:
“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.”

10 million barrels per day is approximately the equivalent daily production of Saudi Arabia.

“A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India.

At best, it would lead to periods of harsh economic adjustment. To what extent conservation measures, investments in alternative energy production, and efforts to expand petroleum production from tar sands and shale would mitigate such a period of adjustment is difficult to predict. One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest.“
The amount of fuel that the military uses on a daily basis is astonishing:

It takes approximately 565,000 gallons per day to fuel a ground armor division and 350,000 gallons per day to fuel an air assault division. Two improvements identified to reduce fuel consumption are the development of better, fuel-efficient propulsion engines and lighter platform, or structure, designs. (from: Fueling the Force in the Army After Next—Revolution or Evolution? )

The U.S. Strategic Reserve is holding about 726 million barrels of oil.  However, it can only be drawn down at 4.4 million barrels per day.  This is a useful amount of fuel to deal with peaks and valleys caused by external shocks to our oil supply (Gulf War, Katrina, etc.) it cannot supply the 18,770,000 barrels of petroleum that we use every day:  4.4 versus almost 19 simply does not work. 

There are something like 40 active U.S. combat brigades, and Army National Guard has 37 (?) brigades.  With 4 maneuver elements per division (plus an aviation brigade, engineer brigade, and division artillery) the U.S. has ten active divisions.  So in very rough parlance the deployed U.S. Army would be using up almost the entire output of 4.4 million of Strategic Reserve fuel, if they were required to act in an emergency capacity within the United States.  So now we can see why they are so concerned with peak oil.

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