Energy usage and the US Department of Defence


in Bombs and rockets, Economics, Geek stuff, Science, The environment

This article on space solar power (collecting energy from sunlight using one or more satellites in geostationary orbit, then beaming it down to Earth using microwaves) contains some interesting information on American military logistics in Iraq:

The armed forces are America’s single greatest consumer of oil. The Department of Defence delivers 1.6m gallons (7.3m litres) of fuel a day—accounting for 70% by weight of all supplies delivered—to its forces in Iraq alone, at a delivered cost per gallon of $5-20. It also spends over $1 per kWh on electric power (ten times the domestic civilian price) in battle zones, because electricity must often be provided using generators that run on fossil fuels.

This helps explain why militaries have such a keen interest in new energy generation and efficiency technologies.

The information on space solar power is also quite interesting. It actually seems to be a bit less infeasible than I thought, though the launching costs remain a very significant barrier.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan December 20, 2008 at 12:23 am

Good thing the U.S. military is willing to put itself on the line to spread democracy. Democracy, that’s what will solve climate change.

R.K. December 20, 2008 at 10:16 am

Because of government subsidies, fuel in Iran is very cheap. This suggests a strategy. Namely, for the US armed forces to buy as much fuel as possible in Iran and smuggle it out of the country.

It will cut fuel costs, and transport costs (since Iran is fairly close to everywhere they are fighting). It would also strain the Iranian budget even further. From a US perspective, that would be good in itself. If it eventually prompted the scaling back of the subsidies, that could also be good. Anti-government riots in the streets of Iran would also be a welcome development.

Milan December 20, 2008 at 6:29 pm


It can be difficult to understand your arguments when you express them in a straightforward way.

Clearly, the US has had difficulty ‘spreading democracy’ recently (though German, Japanese, and South Korean democracy do owe something to them). It is also unclear that democracy can ‘solve climate change.’ So far, democratic states generally have a worse record, because they are richer and have higher per capita emissions.

The military issue does seem like an important one, not least because they are very likely to be exempted from any emissions restricting rules imposed on civilians.

Milan December 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm


I wouldn’t be surprised if some people in the Pentagon are thinking along those sorts of lines.

. December 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Obama Transition Team Examining Space Solar Power

“President-elect Obama’s transition team has published for public comment a white paper entitled Space Solar Power (SSP) — A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change. The paper was prepared and submitted by the Space Frontier Foundation and other citizen space advocates, and calls for the new Administration to make development of Space Solar Power a national priority. The SSP white paper was among the first ten released by the Obama transition team. It is the first and only space-related white paper released by the team to date. With 145 comments thus far, it is already among the top five most-discussed of the 20-some white papers on”

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