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Can the U.S. military move to renewable fuels?

Sohbet Karbuz, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The U.S. military is the world’s largest single consumer of oil. Its efforts to fund renewable energy projects are haphazard and do little to address its dependence on oil for vehicles. A full energy-use profile would allow the U.S. military to know how it uses its fuels, which would allow for a truly comprehensive energy policy.

In a 1906 planning document, the U.S. War Department imagined, “In 1950, the U.S. military [will be] a highly effective, mobile, and mutually supporting force, protecting all required American interests through dominant air, land, and sea operations powered by a petroleum energy standard that is reliably and economically produced from domestic sources.”

That vision came true except regarding the last two words. Oil production in the United States, the largest producer in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, reached its peak in 1970. Today, the United States is the world’s largest oil importer, and the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world. (For more detail see War Without Oil: A Catalyst For True Transformation.)

From the end of the Cold War to the first years of the 21st century, the Pentagon’s energy consumption dropped by some 40 percent, but with the “Global War on Terror,” consumption has risen again. Oil fuels the U.S. military’s nearly 11,000 aircraft and helicopters, 200 combat and support ships, 200,000 tracked and wheeled vehicles, and 190,000 non-combat vehicles, such as trucks, passenger cars, and buses (not to mention many unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles).

Although fuel costs represent less than 3 percent of the Defense Department budget, indirect costs such as those for transporting fuel to battlefields and distributing it to the end-user, add to the total. When the cost of the army’s entire logistics network is added to the cost of delivered fuel, gas prices are $13-$19 per gallon. In the air force, these costs can be much higher, military grade jet fuel delivered through aerial refueling costs upwards of $42 a gallon.

The military is aware of its dependence on oil, and is working to increase its energy efficiency and to create viable alternative fuels such as biofuels and synthetic liquid fuels from natural gas and coal.
(31 October 2008)
One of the best articles by Sohbet Karbuz, who has been a regular contributor to Energy Bulletin. For more, see his blog or his posts at EB. -BA

Pickens’ grassroots energy push may get mowed

Anna Driver, Reuters
The ambitious campaigns by energy billionaires T. Boone Pickens and Chesapeake Energy Corp’s Aubrey McClendon to wean the United States off foreign oil and toward natural gas and wind power may fall victim to crashing energy prices and the global credit crisis.

As part of his plan, has Pickens argued for an overhaul of the nation’s power grid, while Chesapeake Chief Executive Officer McClendon wants the nation’s fleet of vehicles to run on compressed natural gas rather than gasoline and diesel fuel. Both ventures would cost hundreds of billions to implement.

The energy sector has been socked by worries that the financial crisis could cause a worldwide slowdown that would cut into energy demand.
(31 October 2008)

A Last Push To Deregulate
White House to Ease Many Rules

R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis…
(31 October 2008)

Despite price drop, drivers stick with fuel-saving habits

Helen Jung, The Oregonian
Don’t look for monster SUVs to stage a comeback any time soon, but Oregon drivers are gingerly stepping on the gas.

Gas prices in Oregon dropped to $2.86 a gallon on Tuesday, the lowest price in about 13 months and a steep drop-off from the $4-plus levels that motorists paid at the peak in July.

And although they hope prices fall even lower, several said the price drop has helped ease the pain at the pump — and in their checkbooks.

“Instead of spending $65 to fill it, I just spent $43,” said Mark Cach, of Portland.

But like several other motorists, Cach said he plans to continue some of the gas-saving measures that he relied on during the $4-plus a gallon days. He said he combines multiple errands into one trip and avoids driving as much as possible.
(28 October 2008)

As Gas Prices Go Down, Driving Goes Up

Clifford Krauss, New York Times
… The sharp decline in gasoline use earlier this year — with volume down nearly 10 percent in some weeks — suggested to many people, including the automobile companies, that a permanent change in American habits might be at hand. But with gasoline prices falling drastically in recent weeks, some American drivers are returning to their old ways.

What is happening in this blue-collar bedroom community of refinery, food processing and casino workers reminds energy analysts of what happened the last time the oil price collapsed. The frugality of the 1970s, when oil was high, eventually gave way to an era when people drove longer distances, lived farther from work and traded in their cars for minivans and then sport utility vehicles.

“Driving habits die hard, and they can reincarnate quickly,” said Christopher R. Knittel, an economist at the University of California, Davis, who studies gasoline demand. In the late 1980s, he added: “As soon as gas prices fell, there was no real incentive to drive less anymore. If oil prices continue to fall and the economy recovers, I would expect consumers to return to wanting larger and less fuel-efficient cars.”
(29 October 2008)