The Navy is on track to achieve its goals for energy independence and efficiency, according to a "roadmap" announced Wednesday by Secretary Ray Mabus that underscores the importance of a reduction in the costs and risks involved in fuel delivery on the battlefield.
The report, "Energy Program for Security and Independence," reiterates the Navy's goals to reduce energy usage and dependence, specifically the target of fulfilling 50 percent of its demand using alternative sources, including biofuels, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear, by 2020.
According to comprehensive charts included in the report based on 2008 data, maritime and aviation energy make up a combined 78 percent of Naval petroleum demand. However, only 1 percent of Navy petroleum consumption is devoted to expeditionary operations, which account for 61 percent of the Marine Corps's petroleum consumption.
"Energy independence is achieved when Naval forces rely only on energy resources that are not subject to intentional or accidental supply disruptions," the report said.
In a string of deadly attacks earlier this fall, bombers in Pakistan set fire to tanker trucks carrying fuel for American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, further fueling the argument that the U.S. military needs to significantly reduce its petroleum dependence on the battlefield. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attacks, vowing that the NATO troops would not "soil" Pakistani land as a thoroughfare to the war in Afghanistan.
With about half of the supply for U.S. and NATO troops coming in through Pakistan's Chaman and Torkham gate, Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said at the time that the coalition had "no alternative but to explore other routes with other countries."
A few days later, at the Energy Security Forum in October, Mabus highlighted both the actual costs of fuel dependence and what he called the "most significant" human costs of transporting fossil fuels. "Those convoys represent the very last link of a supply system that starts thousands of miles away, because before we put that gasoline into a generator or into a fuel tank on the front lines, we've got to get it to the coast of Pakistan or to one of the logistics hubs," Mabus said in his speech, noting that even then, the fuel convoys that make their way to Afghanistan are often targets of roadside bombs or ambushes.
Referring to an Army study published in September 2009, Mabus said, "For every 24 convoys we lose an American - killed or wounded. One for every 24 convoys. That is too high of a price to pay for energy."