Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Special planes : Fuel !

by Elco B Sun Jun 11th, 2006 at 01:15:43 PM EST

When browsing  US-aviation sites I came across this statement:

If I'm doing the math correctly (but someone might want to check me--it's been decades since I used numbers), the Air Force needs 8.8 million barrels of jet fuel a day to stay aloft, .4% of all the oil used in the world.

I have no idea if this statement is correct, but indeed intuition says , what the US Airforce is burning up, is probably a huge quantity.  So , I looked for some figures.
Also I found something is moving in that 'market-niche'.

            A US strategic bomber, a B-52, refuelling mid-air.

First I tried to find figures for the European Airforces, but this is not easy at all, I couln't find centralised figures. So I looked to the US. Their Airforce-fleet is larger than the combinded fleet of the EU-country's.

When an F-16 jetfighter lights up its afterburners(=full power), it consumes nearly 110 litres of fuel per minute.
Such a jet burns more fuel in one hour than a average European car in one year.

The US has more than 2000 f-16's in service, more than 1000 in other country's.

Figures :


The Air Force consumed 3.2 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal year 2005, which was 52.5 percent of all fossil fuel used by the government, Pentagon statistics show. The total Air Force bill for jet fuel last year topped $4.7 billion.

Although the share of national energy consumption by the federal government and the military is just 1.7 percent, every increase of $10 per barrel of oil drives up Air Force fuel costs by $600 million per year.

This are huge figures. War for oil is already a reality, but problems are becoming to big to only rely on war, so, now even the military are looking for alternatives.

Alternatives :

In the last century, the Nazi military relied heavily on synthetic fuel derived from coal, and U.S. Gen. George S. Patton syphoned some of it to continue the march to Germany, according to the Department of Energy. The U.S. government showed interest in coal-to-liquid fuel during the 20th century but it was never fully developed.

Japan, during WWII:

Shortages of fuel were preventing its planes from flying more than two hours a month. Was there no other way to get oil? Desperate for fuel, the Navy launched its fantastic pine root campaign. Guided by the slogan, "two hundred pine roots will keep a plane in the air for an hour," people all over the Home Islands began to dig up pine roots. Children were dispatched to the countryside to scour for the roots. The pine roots were to be heated for twelve hours, producing a crude oil substitute. Thirty-four thousand kettles, stills, and small distillation units were put in place, with the aim of producing three or four gallons of oil per day. The futility of the effort was revealed by the labor requirements. Each gallon produced required 2.5 man-days of work. To meet the official target of twelve thousand barrels per day would have required 1.25 million persons per day!

An article from 8 juin summerizes the situation now :
Pentagon Plans Major Alternative Fuel Buys

The Defense Department is asking companies to submit proposals for supplying 200 million gallons of alternative or synthetic fuel in anticipation of major field tests of vehicles and vessels by the Air Force and Navy in 2008 and 2009. The field tests are part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to reduce its dependence on foreign oil with cleaner-burning fuels that would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The initial contract for unconventional fuel for the tests will be signed with Syntroleum Corporation of Tulsa, Okla., which has provided synthetic fuel for testing by the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Defense since 1998.
Syntroleum can produce 42 gallons of synthetic fuel from 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The raw materials cost about $70.
Mr. Holmes, CEO of Syntroleum :

If the military moves ahead with using the synthetic fuels, the Syntroleum technology could be used by factories elsewhere to produce the same 42 gallons of fuel from just $10 worth of coal.
The United States is essentially the Saudi Arabia of coal. It can be mined relatively inexpensively. We really believe that one of the things we can do to help our country's energy needs is to use the abundance of coal reserves.

My conclusions :

  • First of all this:
    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed--those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone--it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. Dwight Eisenhower, Speech (1953)

  • What frightens me : the US Airforce is the largest consumer of fuel. With their budget, they are now subsidizing those who will invest in gas and coal-based synthetic fuel plants. Soon this fuel will be available for other markets (civil aviation, cars ..) at a unreachable price for other alternatives.

This is an important insight - one that has gone unnoticed perhaps.

This is incredible:

Such a jet burns more fuel in one hour than a average European car in one year.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jun 11th, 2006 at 01:40:22 PM EST

In your first quote, you said that the AF uses 8.8 million bbl/day - that would be over 10% of world consumption.  My guess is that it should have been 8.8 million gallons/day.

It is still a hell of a lot though.

by ericy on Sun Jun 11th, 2006 at 04:09:38 PM EST
The quote is copy/pasted ...indeed: it is 8.8 million gallons/day.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Jun 11th, 2006 at 04:41:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"The Army calculated that it would burn 40 million gallons of fuel in three weeks of combat in Iraq, an amount equivalent to the gasoline consumed by all Allied armies combined during the four years of World War I." [1]

In the May 2005 issue of the Atlantic Monthly article Robert Bryce says that "The U.S. military now uses about 1.7 million gallons of fuel a day in Iraq. ... each of the 150,000 soldiers on the ground consumes roughly nine gallons of fuel a day. And that figure has been rising." This mean in Iraq each day 40 000 b/d of oil is consumed by the US military."

"According to the US Defense Energy Support Center Fact Book 2004, in Fiscal Year 2004, the US military fuel consumption increased to 144 million barrels. This is about 40 million barrels more than the average peacetime military usage.

By the way, 144 million barrels makes 395 000 barrels per day, almost as much as daily energy consumption of Greece."

"In fiscal 2005, DESC will buy about 128 million barrels of fuel at a cost of $8.5 billion, and Jet fuel constitutes nearly 70 percent of DoD's petroleum product purchases." says American Forces Information Service News Article by G. J. Gilmore. [3]

The US military oil consumption overseas and the world oil demand
According to the Defence Logistic Agency's Web Site, as of November 2005 more than 2.1 billion gallons of fuel have been used in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (since October 2001; war on terrorism in Afghanistan).

For some, this is not enough though. Here is what a report from Office of Under Secretary of Defense says "Because DOD's consumption of oil represents the highest priority of all uses, there will be no fundamental limits to DOD's fuel supply for many, many decades." [4]

it is a bit scary to thing that this Army will have to secure the flow of oil to be able to secure it.

full source : http://www.energybulletin.net/13199.html

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Sun Jun 11th, 2006 at 10:07:22 PM EST
It is a bit scary to thing that this Army will have to secure the flow of oil to be able to secure it.

Yes, excellent conclusion.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Mon Jun 12th, 2006 at 03:59:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to ..



Hardly anything to say.. just I am proud to be in a group which can detect small variables that can become very important in the future. What an insight!!!

I think this is clearly one of them.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jun 12th, 2006 at 03:35:10 AM EST
Like fredouil said it, basically the Air Force needs to secure oil in order to have the power to secure oil ...

Nice catch elco B!

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jun 12th, 2006 at 03:51:38 AM EST
Fascinating.  Thanks for the research, ElcoB.  These plane diaries just keep getting better.

I will note that military energy needs have long driven both energy policy and foreign policy.  Think of the ramifications of then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill's decision to convert the British Navy fleet from coal to oil....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jun 12th, 2006 at 04:05:48 AM EST
 Your diary and the subsequent posts put into an interesting light the consistent US government interest (obsession?) with their dreams of space-based
"defense" (a word which now requires the scare-quotation marks).

 There are lots of indicators that the Dr Strangeloves who people the US Dept. of "Defense" [Do"D"], not to mention much of the rest of the federal government, are used to thinking in very long terms of time--the more the matter concerns what they call "strategic 'defense' ", the more you may be sure that they are thinking about it in the very long term.

 That offers some speculative insight into how important the space-based "defense" program may be viewed in the U.S. govt.  Among scientists who are able to look at it without drooling for research dollars, the space-based "defense" thing is a howler--scoffed at as sheer folly.

 But, without it, the Do"D" is facing a real nightmare.  How can they continually and overwhelmingly dominate the planet unless they enjoy either unlimited fuel for the equipment, or they develop the ultimate utopian goal: a space-based all-powerful and omnipresent coverage of the Earth's surface--all points subject to attack at any time by Uncle Sam's space forces?

 Even that scenario has unsolvable headaches, though.  Man-made objects in space suffer tremendous degradation withhout constant maintainence and repair.  Such upkeep even on a tiny few objects should require huge outlays of resources.

 In the end, such a system simply can't meet demands over a very long term; it's too costly and trouble-prone.  Such high-tech blind-spots are what makes the US forces in Iraq so vulnerable to an imaginative, resourceful and adaptive enemey that can hobble a multi-billion-dollar military occupation by means of what's terms "improvised explosive devices"--the bane of the world's most technologically advanced--and most expensive--military.

 The U.S. government --led by people who are philosophically opposed to the idea of government exept as a manager of monopolistic violent force--has shown that the same principles that can ruin a once-effective and affordable health-care system can also ruin a military establishment.  

 Who'd 'a thought the military-industrial complex's undoing should turn out to be the military-industrial complex itself, run amok?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon Jun 12th, 2006 at 10:27:49 AM EST
What a good diary, Elco B!

ericy in a recent diary, Peak Oil, Global Warming & Coal, says

My gut tells me that coal liquefaction is really more of a band-aid - a way to keep the status quo functioning a few more years in the hopes that we will find a better solution.  But questions of resource exhaustion lead me to believe that no such better solution will be found, and if you accept that there are limits to what the earth will support, then perhaps a more productive approach for moving forward would be to reexamine aspects of our society that cause us to overconsume in the first place.

Jerome a Paris and Brian Schweitzer had a discussion on coal liquefaction on DKos some time back:

Governor Schweitzer, I have a few questions for you
Answering Your Questions About Montana's Black Gold

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 13th, 2006 at 04:15:18 AM EST
Just joining the chorus here: great stuff and scary stats.
by Number 6 on Tue Jun 13th, 2006 at 12:15:11 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]