Top Military Leaders Want US to Reduce Oil Consumption 30% in Next 10 Years

Top retired military leaders are calling for "immediate, swift and aggressive action" for the US to reduce oil consumption 30% over the next 10 years, saying it would significantly reduce grave security risks. 

America must also diversify the fuels it relies on to insulate it from the inevitable disruptions in the world’s oil supply. Leaders also call for the US to vastly increase efficiency and emphasis on alternative fuels, and to develop a national, sustained energy roadmap.

Even a small interruption of the daily oil supply impacts our nation’s economic engine, they say. A sustained disruption would alter every aspect of our lives, including the cost of food, manufacturing goods and services, and freedom of movement.

Some of the highest ranking retired military leaders released their report at U.S. House and Senate briefings today, "Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence." The report is by the CNA research organization’s Military Advisory Board.

"We have seen oil shocks before.  And they have been immediate and far-reaching. But at today’s level of US consumption, a sustained disruption would be devastating – crippling our very freedom of movement," says General Paul Kern, USA (Ret.) who chairs the Miltary Advisory Board. "Our enemies know this fact and they exploit it at will."

Citing the diverging trajectories of oil supply and demand, with countries such as China, India and other developing countries stepping on the accelerator, the leaders write, "Worldwide demand for oil is increasing at an alarming rate… Our military experience tells us transitional moments such as these are important and they come and go quickly. When the moment is ripe, we must act or fight our way out of the consequences of inaction."

CNA, a non-profit that provides objective research to support policy analysis, looked at the potential economic impact of a future oil disruption in one critical industrial sector – the U.S. trucking industry. The analysis measured the effect of four different theoretical blockages in the flow of oil, each lasting 30 days, in the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Panama Canal.

Under a worst-case scenario, 30-day closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the analysis finds that the U.S. would lose nearly $75 billion in GDP.  But cutting current levels of U.S. oil dependence by 30%, the impact would be nearly zero. Oak Ridge National Lab came to the same conclusion for other industry sectors.

"Currently, our collective national conscience is focused on jobs, and rightly so," he says. "Our economy is in serious trouble. But rather than divert us from the task, moving away from oil could contribute to restoring our economic strength," says Admiral Lee Gunn, US Navy (Ret.).

The military would also benefit significantly from a 30% reduction in U.S. oil consumption, because it would undoubtedly require greater efficiency, which would save lives by decreasing dangerous battlefield fuel convoys. 

The report calls on national leaders to:

  • Increase efficiency  – the first, fastest and most effective strategy to reduce oil consumption. Fuel economy standards for cars and trucks are a proven, effective way to reduce the use of oil. They call for strengthening those standards, as well as providing additional market incentives and research investments to help increase the fuel economy of America’s vehicles.
  • Diversify supply: "Our current overreliance on a single fuel is a weakness; relying on diverse fuels and vehicle types can be a strength," the report notes. Government must take action to promote the use of a more diverse mix of transportation fuels and to drive wider public acceptance of these alternatives.

Increased domestic production of oil might be useful short-term as long as overall oil consumption is reduced at the same time.  Simply replacing foreign with domestic oil without reducing consumption does not reduce the national security and economic risks associated with a global oil market that is vulnerable to manipulation and disruption.

  • Increase alternative fuels: The report acknowledges that not all alternatives to oil are created equal, and calls for a careful assessment of national security impacts.

    For the first time in any single document, the report assesses a suite of alternative fuels for impacts on a broad range of critical aspects of national security: economic, military, political/geopolitical and environmental. 

    While environmental concerns may not seem related to national security, there is a connection, they say. For example, an extended drought in Darfur, Sudan, led to economic instability, which in turn led to political instability and civil war. 

  • Develop a national, cogent, dedicated and sustained energy roadmap that rises above partisan politics.  The military leaders warn "security must trump ideology," adding "the scale of impact associated with our energy use is massive." 

    They write that "the right energy choices can bring down our trade imbalance, lead to new jobs at home, launch new American-made technologies, strengthen our foreign policy hand and increase our military and foreign policy options.

    These benefits are time-sensitive – waiting for a convenient time to address this challenge will weaken us while others continue to gain strength. Administration and congressional leaders should require that major energy policy documents address the national security implications of our energy choices."

"The cost of inaction is too high," concludes Admiral Dennis McGinn, US Navy (Ret). "A 30 percent reduction in oil consumption would loosen our tether to hostile states, reduce our trade deficit, and keep the money here at home to create jobs."

In 2007, the Military Advisory Board was among the first to identify climate change as a "threat multiplier" because the projected impacts of severe weather events will exacerbate existing security risks, create conflicts around limited resources and prompt mass migration.

Their report: "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change;" "Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security;" "Powering America’s Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroads of National Security.

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Comments on “”

  1. sarah mokol

    If the US didn’t use all their money on the war, the economy wouldn’t be as bad as it is. Americans blame the federal government more for the nation’s economic plight than they do the primary target of the Occupy Wall Street protests — big financial institutions. If you don’t know why the US economy is so bad, this article gives a great explanation on what the US did.


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