“The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources
are quickly drawing to a close,” according to a recently released US Army
strategic report. The report posits that a peak in global oil production looks
likely to be imminent, with wide reaching implications for the US Army and society
The report was sent to Energy Bulletin by a reader, and does not appear to
be available elsewhere on the internet. However it is marked as unclassified
and approved for public release.
[ UPDATE: Since we wrote those words several hours ago we've
been informed that a reference
to the document now appears on a Google search, including a link to the
full PDF on a .mil server. "Somebody must be watching you guys!"
writes reader SG. Before we wrote this report we sent out copies of the abbreviated
report to several associates including PeakOil.net
who published it on their website. So who knows? I've updated the links to
the report in this article to the location on the government servers. -AF]
The report, Energy
Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations (PDF &ndash
1.2mb), was conducted by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
(ERDC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is dated September 2005.
Author Eileen Westervelt, PE, CEM, is a mechanical engineer at the Engineer
Research and Development Center (US Army Corps of Engineers) in Champaign, Ill.
Author Donald Fournier is a senior research specialist at the University of
Illinois’ Building Research Council and has
worked with the Corps in the past.
Westervelt and Fournier give special credence to the work of independent energy
experts, such as the Association for the Study
of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) and the Oil
Depletion Analysis Center (ODAC). They seem to place very little credibility
on the more optimistic oil production forecasts of the international energy
agencies. They reproduce ASPO graphs and quote ASPO member Jean Laherrere on
why the US Geological Survey (USGS) future oil availability estimates are clearly
The USGS estimate implies a five-fold increase in discovery rate and reserve
addition, for which no evidence is presented. Such an improvement in performance
is in fact utterly implausible, given the great technological achievements
of the industry over the past twenty years, the worldwide search, and the
deliberate effort to find the largest remaining prospects.
The authors warn that in order to sustain its mission, “the Army must
insulate itself from the economic and logistical energy-related problems coming
in the near to mid future. This requires a transition to modern, secure, and
efficient energy systems, and to building technologies that are safe and environmental
friendly.” The best energy options they conclude are “energy efficiency
and renewable sources.” However, "currently, there is no viable substitute
They do not expect that any transition will be easy: “energy consumption
is indispensable to our standard of living and a necessity for the Army to carry
out its mission. However, current trends are not sustainable. The impact of
excessive, unsustainable energy consumption may undermine the very culture and
activities it supports. There is no perfect energy source; all are used at a
The report includes what looks like a solid overview of the pros and cons of
all major renewable and non-renewable energy options. They consider problems
associated with hydrogen, shale oil, biofuels and tar sands. On nuclear energy
they note that "our current throw-away nuclear cycle uses up the world
reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years." They hold more hope for
certain solar technologies and wind turbines, however, "renewables tend
to be a more local or regional commodity and except for a few instances, not
necessarily a global resource that is traded between nations."
Overall this is surprisingly green sounding advice, and one might think out
of left field for one of the most environmentally destructive and energy
consuming institutions on the planet. And yet the report does not seem to
be at odds with the Army's new Energy Strategy which sets out five major initiatives:
1. Eliminate energy waste in existing facilities
2. Increase energy efficiency in new construction and renovations
3. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
4. Conserve water resources
5. Improve energy security
Westervelt and Fournier assert that changes must be made with urgency. However
they express concerns that "we have a large and robust energy system with
tremendous inertia, both from a policy perspective and a great resistance to
change." In light of this, “the Army needs to present its perspective
to higher authorities and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national
measures that are taken.”
Westervelt and Fournier suggest "it is time to think strategically about
energy and how the Army
should respond to the global and national energy picture. A path of enlightened
self-interest is encouraged." As we approach Peak Oil, what is ecologically
sound and what is perceived to be to in an institution's practical benefit might
tend to converge, at least in some respects - even those of an institution such
as the US Army.
8 page summary of the report (PDF – 75kb)
Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations - full report
(PDF – 1.2mb)
related powerpoint presentation by Donald Fournier( PDF &ndash 1mb)
energy demands decisions that look beyond cost (one-page commentary by
Westervelt and Fournier in Public Works Digest, p. 16; PDF – 723kb)
Candidate Army Energy and Water Management Strategy by Westervelt and
Fournier (118 pages, PDF &ndash 2mb)
Some extended quotations from the document:
Energy Implications for Army Installations
The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly
drawing to a close. Domestic natural gas production peaked in 1973. The proved
domestic reserve lifetime for natural gas at current consumption rates is
about 8.4 yrs. The proved world reserve lifetime for natural gas is about
40 years, but will follow a traditional rise to a peak and then a rapid decline.
Domestic oil production peaked in 1970 and continues to decline. Proved domestic
reserve lifetime for oil is about 3.4 yrs. World oil production is at or near
its peak and current world demand exceeds the supply. Saudi Arabia is considered
the bellwether nation for oil production and has not increased production
since April 2003. After peak production, supply no longer meets demand, prices
and competition increase. World proved reserve lifetime for oil is about 41
years, most of this at a declining availability. Our current throw-away nuclear
cycle will consume the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years.
Unless we dramatically change our consumption practices, the Earth’s
finite resources of petroleum and natural gas will become depleted in this
century. Coal supplies may last into the next century depending on technology
and consumption trends as it starts to replace oil and natural gas.
We must act now to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to
transition to other energy sources. Policy changes, leap ahead technology
breakthroughs, cultural changes, and significant investment is requisite for
this new energy future. Time is essential to enact these changes. The process
should begin now.
Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency
and renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily
available, and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy
supplies. ... For efficiency and renewables, the intangible and hard to quantify
benefits — such as reduced pollution and increased security —
yield indisputable economic value.
Many of the issues in the energy arena are outside the control of the Army.
Several actions are in the purview of the national government to foster the
ability of all groups, including the Army, to optimize their natural resource
management. The Army needs to present its perspective to higher authorities
and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national measures that are taken.
Historically, no other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities
of extractability, transportability, versatility, and cost. The qualities
that enabled oil to take over from coal as the front-line energy source for
the industrialized world in the middle of the 20th century are as relevant
today as they were then. Oil’s many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times
more economic value per MBtu than coal (Gever, Kaufman et al. 1991). Currently,
there is no viable substitute for petroleum.
In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies
to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks
for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have already past
their peak, or are now producing at peak capacity.
Conventional Oil Resources
In general, all nonrenewable resources follow a natural supply curve. Production
increases rapidly, slows, reaches a peak, and then declines (at a rapid pace,
similar to its initial increase). The major question for petroleum is not
whether production will peak, but when. There are many estimates of recoverable
petroleum reserves giving rise to many estimates of when peak oil will occur
and how high the peak will be. A careful review of all the estimates leads
to the conclusion that world oil production may peak within a few short years,
after which it will decline (Campbell and Laherrere 1998; Deffeyes 2001; Laherrere
2003). Once peak oil occurs, then the historic patterns of world oil demand
and price cycles will cease.
Notes from BA
The military's commitment to energy policy
A notice in the report says, "The findings of this report are not to be
construed as an official Department of the Army position unless so designated
by other authorized documents." However, as AF notes, other U.S. Army planning
documents seem to share the concern about energy supply. And as USA
Spurred by a 57% increase in fuel costs, the Pentagon is speeding up its
efforts to save energy and develop new sources of power. ...All military bases
and facilities have been ordered to cut energy use by 2% per year and pursue
alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind.
The recent spate of articles about the military and energy policy bespeaks
a more comprehensive outlook than either that of the Democratic or Republican
parties, or most environmental organizations. For example, see:
imperative: a “Manhattan Project” for energy (Joint Forces
Toward a Long-Range Energy
Security Policy - Parameters (US Army War College).
The report only surveys energy sources, and does not cover efficiency or conservation.
Nonetheless, the report notes that energy efficiency is "the cheapest,
fastest, cleanest source of new energy." (p.58). In other publications,
the authors do cover energy efficiency in detail, for example in A
Candidate Army Energy and Water Management Strategy (118 pages, PDF &ndash
Many of the projects
pursued by author Fournier are related to sustainability and energy efficiency
(also see article
in Green Biz).
The fact that the document does not seem to be online is puzzling. Searching
with Google yielded no results. According to a note on page 4 of the report,
the report should be available at http://www.cecer.army.mil/,
a URL which seems to be obsolete or inaccessible.
Possibility for an alliance
I'm more sanguine about the role of the military than AF. Within the military
and intelligence communities, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for unproductive
resource wars. See the talks by Ex-CIA directors James
R. Schlesinger and James
Woolsey as well as the work of Gal Luft at the Institute
for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS).
Is the unlikely alliance described in the following
article more widely possible?
You wouldn't have thought it possible: a former director of the Central
Intelligence Agency drawing a standing ovation from a room full of left-leaning
environmentalists right here in Eugene.
But that's exactly what happened at the University of Oregon's Public Interest
Environmental Law Conference Saturday afternoon as R. James Woolsey - the
nation's chief "spook" under President Bill Clinton from 1993-1995
- spoke passionately about the need to reduce America's dependence on foreign
"There is a moral dimension to this," Woolsey said. "We should
be good custodians of the Earth.
And if that means creating an unlikely alliance between national security
hawks, American farmers, Christian evangelicals, liberal do-gooders and tree-hugging
environmentalists, Woolsey said, that's just fine with him.
"All these groups are starting to come around on this set of issues,"
"Speaker inspires no-oil thinking" in the Eugene Register Guard,
March 5, 2006.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE: Sohbet Karbuz points out
this much earlier discussion of Peak Oil in military circles from 2002:
From Petro to Agro: Seeds of a New Economy, by Robert E. Armstrong
He also notes that "The DoD Energy consumption was 961 trillion Btu in
2004. (Annual Energy Review 2004 Table 1.13) and army consumes only 1/10th of
it. The Air Force is the biggest consumer."
See also Sohbet's recent article, The
US military oil consumption.