- June 14, 2019
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President Dwight Eisenhower warned about the United States' "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address. What he did not mention was the enormous enormous environmental cost associated with the complex. Preparing for war, conducting it, and its aftermath are all fuel-intensive activities. A new report from Brown University estimates that the US military has emitted more than 1,212 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2001.
"DOD emissions for all military operations from 2001 to 2017 are estimated to be about 766 million metric tons of CO2e. And of these military operations, it is estimated that total war-related emissions including for the “overseas contingency operations” in the major war zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, 5 are more than 400 Million Metric Tons of CO2e," the report's authors write.
Fuel for the 1991 Gulf war was mainly supplied by Saudi Arabia. Emissions declined subsequently until 9/11, when the war began on Afghanistan. They hit their highest level in a decade in 2005, when the US was simultaneously conducting was in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even today, the Department of Defense accounts for between 77 percent to 80 percent of all US government energy consumption.
Why does the US military consume so much energy? It’s fighting “tooth” employs equipment that guzzles fuel at an incredible rate. The logistical “tail” and the installations that support operations are also extremely fuel intensive. Even the military’s non-armored vehicles are notoriously inefficient. For instance, the approximately 60,000 HUMVEEs remaining in the US Army fleet get between four to eight miles per gallon of diesel fuel.
Of course, the US military is also a fount of major innovation in renewable energy systems. The report states that the army has made a massive investment in solar since 2009 but the switch has yielded less than one percent of emissions offsets for US DOD.