Wars and Military Conflicts

You know who's not getting cheap gas? The US military

U.S. soldiers with military vehicles during a training mission in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, December 15, 2014.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

Yes, the price of oil is in a free fall, and a gallon of gas at the station is falling fast, even below two dollars in some parts of the country. But you know who's not getting cheap gas? The U.S. military.

It's paying 100 times the price the rest of us are. The total cost of getting fuel where it needs to be is skyrocketing the cost for military gas. At a burn rate of 300,000 barrels of oil per day, the Department of Defense consumes 1.5 percent of total national consumption, and is the largest user of energy in America. As a result, it is the biggest proponent of clean energy. Even a total cost of $100 per gallon would be a steal for the military. That's because its calculations on energy costs are very different than for a regular consumer.

The $400 price tag, as spoken by Gen. James Conway to a Navy Energy Forum, is based on the "fully burdened" cost of fuel, adding up the price for security and transportation every step along the way. In places such as Afghanistan, transportation is a major problem. Cargo flights, helicopters and parachute drops are necessary to avoid extremely dangerous land fuel convoys.

Ashton Carter, the current nominee for defense secretary, once said: "Next to Antarctica, Afghanistan is probably the most incommodious place to be trying to fight a war.... It's landlocked, rugged [and] the road network is much thinner than Iraq, and it has fewer airports." It's not just money; so many soldier deaths are a result of just moving fuel.

To be fair, there has been a lot of debate and controversy on the true cost of fuel. According to National Defense Magazine, basic gas costs $2.82, and then quickly rises to $13 and $42 depending on transportation methods, and up to $100 to $600 in some hostile areas. In the past, the Pentagon has been criticized for not knowing its true fuel cost, which was a more obvious issue a few years ago when oil prices were over $100 per barrel. Even even with today's cheap gas, the military is still paying more than we could ever imagine.

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With costs so high, it's no wonder the military would be on the leading edge of clean energy innovation. Some current projects include a way to produce localized energy on site, creating a mobile energy system and better integrating generators and batteries. There are dozens of projects already underway at military bases globally and multi-decade, long-term plans to find efficiency. Some of the projects include focusing on green power, renewable jet fuels and changing the culture around energy awareness in day-to-day operations.

For the price tag the military currently pays, any savings would make a difference. It makes you realize that even at $4 gas, you were still getting a deal.