According to a new briefing by the Military Advisory Board comprised of high-ranking retired military leaders: Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence. , the US needs “immediate, swift and aggressive action over the next decade to achieve the 30 percent reduction in U.S. oil consumption.” This report
“We have seen oil shocks before. And they have been immediate and far-reaching. But at today’s level of US consumption, a sustained disruption would be devastating – crippling our very freedom of movement,” said General Paul Kern, USA (Ret.) who chairs the MAB. “Our enemies know this fact and they exploit it at will.”
Citing the diverging trajectories of oil supply and demand, with countries such as China, India and other developing countries stepping on the accelerator, the leaders write, “Worldwide demand for oil is increasing at an alarming rate… Our military experience tells us transitional moments such as these are important and they come and go quickly. When the moment is ripe, we must act or fight our way out of the consequences of inaction.”
“You could wake up tomorrow morning and hear that the Iranians sense an attack on their nuclear power plants,” General James T. Conway, USMC (Ret) said. “And so they preemptively take steps to shut off the flow of oil in the Gulf. The U.S. would likely view this as a threat to our economy, and we would take action. And there we are, drawn into it.”
CNA analyzed the potential economic impact of a future oil disruption in one critical industrial sector that is heavily dependent on petroleum: the U.S. trucking industry. The analysis measured the effect of four different theoretical blockages in the flow of oil, each lasting 30 days, in the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Panama Canal.
Under a worst-case scenario 30-day closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the analysis finds that the U.S. would lose nearly $75 billion in GDP. But cutting current levels of U.S. oil dependence by 30 percent, the impact would be nearly zero. Oak Ridge National Laboratory found complementary results when measuring the impact of oil flow disruptions on other sectors.
MAB Vice-Chair Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) adds that a meaningful reduction in U.S. reliance on imported petroleum over the next decade would provide substantial economic as well as security benefits. “Currently, our collective national conscience is focused on jobs, and rightly so,” he says. “Our economy is in serious trouble. But rather than divert us from the task, moving away from oil could contribute to restoring our economic strength.”
The military could benefit significantly from a 30 percent reduction in U.S. oil consumption, according to the report. Achieving a 30 percent reduction would undoubtedly require new methods of efficiency that would translate directly to the battlefield. In addition to greater efficiency resulting in saving lives by decreasing dangerous battlefield fuel convoys, a 30 percent reduction would spawn diversified power sources other than oil. Less oil use equals less oil we are required to import and greater flexibility for military presence in dangerous parts of the world. This flexibility could translate into putting fewer American troops in harm’s way and keeping more dollars at home.