High cost of protecting oil shipments

The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean

A climate skeptic claims that we cannot afford to use more green energy.


The U.S. is planning to conduct minesweeping exercises with helicopters, underwater drones, and aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. The goal is to keep the Strait of Hormuz open for oil shipments from Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Part of the argument for US assuming this financial burden, is that if oil supplies are interrupted, there is likely to be a spike in the price of oil, which can reduce market confidence and shrink our economy.

The U.S. has protected access to oil in the Middle East for decades, and this policy continues today. It’s not cheap. A Princeton University study estimated that it cost the U.S. $7.3 trillion, over half the current U.S. national debt, solely to keep aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf from 1976 to 2007. The U.S. military budget is around $600 billion a year now, A substantial percentage of that is devoted to protecting trade routes and trying to ensure that nations with large oil reserves are friendly to our corporations.

One analyst estimates that we spend $30 to $75 billion a year in peacetime defending the Persian Gulf area, and many billions more for wars.

Retrieval of the oil is an expensive proposition. It would require an investment of $50 billion to finance increases in Iraq’s production of oil, and more billions to finance a water project to help force the oil out of the ground, according to a chairman with Royal Dutch Shell.

What US citizens should be asking is the amount by which we could reduce the military budget if clean energy and efficiency techniques took away our need for foreign oil.


Solar aircraft travels 3700 miles


Solar Impulse’ Solar powered airplane

This single-seater Swiss aircraft developed at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne is made of carbon fibre and uses photovoltaic cells and lithium batteries. In June it flew from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morocco, and a month later traveled 3700 miles. The plan is to fly it around the world.

Green military

A wave strikes the side of USNS Henry J. Kaiser as it conducts a replenishment at sea.

USNS Kaiser delivered 900,000 gallons 50-50 blend biofuels and petroleum-based fuels to USS Nimitz aircraft carrier for Navy’s Great Green Fleet demonstration

Sen James Inhofe (R-Okla) said that the greening of the navy is a waste of money.


We need to systematize military energy use and sources. That was the recommendation of a Department of Defense task force a decade ago. Then in 2008 another task force decried the lack of progress and said that there was a serious need to reduce energy use, increase efficiency, and include more alternative energy. That report for the Department of Defense found that ‘high fuel demand compromised operational effectiveness,’ not just high use of foreign fuel, but high use of all fuel.

On July 18, 2012, the Navy made history.  A carrier strike group with 71 aircraft conducted drills, all run on 50-50 mix of petroleum and biofuel from algae and used cooking oil. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus and Rear Admiral Tim Barrett of the Royal Australian Navy signed a statement of cooperation on biofuels research and deployment.

The importance of reducing dependence on fossil fuels has been the subject of much military analysis. The DOD spends $1 billion a day on foreign oil. The U.S. has only 3% of known oil reserves; countries with large reserves include Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Venezuela. Our dependence on oil entangles us with hostile regimes, weakens our international leverage, and subjects us to high expenses  according to Vice-Admiral Dennis Mcginn.

Although biofuels cost four times as much as oil now, the technology is new and there is the potential for much lower costs with further research.

Financing a transition to a clean energy economy

PIX 15550

Is a transition to clean energy financially possible?


Yes, according to some recent studies. If the world spends $5 trillion over the next 10 years on new cleaner energy technology and efficiency measures, that would reduce payments for fuel by $4 trillion, leaving a cost of $1 trillion. However clean energy would also reduce losses from disastrous weather events, fires, crop failures, acid oceans, and wasted energy, and social dislocation. Deputy executive director of International Energy Agency Richard Jones spoke to the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting last April announcing a report, “Tracking Clean Energy Progress.” The possibility exists that the transition would be cost neutral, if we do not delay too long.

UK economist Sir Nicholas Stern has said that early action to halt fossil fuel burning will result in more benefits than costs. In recent lectures he released his analysis that the cost of investing in clean energy quadruples if we wait until after 2020.  He said that if we are to keep the world’s temperature from increasing more than 2oC by 2050, we need to cut emissions from the 50 billions tons now emitted worldwide to below 44 by 2020.  This he say will require carbon taxes and regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, more research and incentives for green technology, government investment in networks like grids, labeling on products for consumer awareness, green investment banks and placing value on nature.

The International Monetary Fund study comparing different ways of putting incentives on a transition from fossil fuel to clean energy shows that it can be done without hurting economic stability and growth, and without putting an undue burden on developing nations.


There is a wooded area above a beach at Carkeek Park in Seattle where you can walk under a cool forest canopy, a small reminder of what was. If, going back to city hills,  apartments start looking like ancient cedar groves, the sidewalk seems to morph into a wild tumbling stream, and a skateboarder disappears around the corner like a white-tailed deer, then you know its time to go visit wilderness.

It’s responsible and caring to calculate your carbon footprint and try to reduce your use of electricity and fuel. Walk, ride transit, turn off unnecessary appliances, recycle more and fly less. All good. But once in a while you should go to the mountains, and let the green hills smooth out your brain waves and soothe your solastalgia. Distress at losing a familiar natural environment, worry about the future, is also an effect of climate change.

 Beat the Heat

How hot do scientists think it is going to get in forty years?

80% of climate scientists who agreed to take an on-line poll said that by 2050 average world temperatures will be between 1 and 3oC higher than today, if energy policies do not change.  See graphs at skepticalscience.com

Temperatures will rise over the next few decades, even if we stop burning oil coal and natural gas now, because there is a lag time; it takes a few decades, for the emissions to warm up the Earth. So the sooner we transition to clean energy the more likely that we can keep the temperature from spiraling to dangerous levels.

However, market competition makes it difficult for industries to risk new technologies. Government regulations that require steadily increasing investment in clean technologies help level the competitive field.

A carbon tax, combined with tax reductions for individuals and businesses, has been working in British Columbia. An op-ed in the NYTimes calls it ‘an opportunity to reduce existing taxes, clean up the environment and increase personal freedom and energy security.’

Attendees at the Citizens Climate Lobby  conference, July 22-24 in Washington DC. asked members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors to the Save our Climate Act, HR 3242, (SOCA)  calling for a tax on carbon, with revenues returned to households.

Government should support green energy projects

A Washington Times editorial says the government burns cash by supporting green energy projects.

Our response:

The real burning of cash is the $350 billion that the US sends to foreign countries every year for oil purchases. It is the $600 billion of our taxes that are used to defend shipments. It is the $120 billion in damages to health, crops, timber and other things in 2005 from electric generation by coal and natural gas in Hidden Costs of Energy by the National Academy of Sciences. It is the $110 million/year oyster industry threatened by acid oceans according to a NOAA study.

The cost of continuing our reliance on oil is a quantum greater than the cost of encouraging the entrepreneurs, inventors, salespeople and investors of America to create a new green energy economy, powered by solar, wind, geothermal, batteries and other low carbon technology.

Shrinking from defense of our civilization against the ravages of global warming is not what I think of as American.