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U.S. Military Spends $20.2 Billion Annually on Air Conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan

The US military spends a whopping $20.2 billion each year just to provide air conditioning to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a top retired general told NPR. That’s more than NASA’s budget, or the amount that BP has paid in damages resulting from last year’s Gulf oil spill.

“When you consider the cost to deliver fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world– escorting, command and control, medevac support– when you throw all that infrastructure in, we’re talking over $20 billion,” Steven Anderson, a former brigadier general who served as General David Petraeus’ chief logistician in Iraq, told NPR’s All Things Considered.

NPR traced the treacherous route that a single gallon of fuel that’s used to power an air conditioner must follow, from shipment to the port of Karachi, Pakistan to the 18-day truck transport to Afghanistan over horrendous and dangerous roads, with the constant risk of attack by militants once inside Taliban-ridden Afghanistan.

Anderson estimates that more than 1,000 troops have been killed transporting fuel in convoys, much of it destined for air conditioners. And with summertime temperatures exceeding 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51.6 degrees Celsius), US forces use a lot of air conditioning as they wage two wars in scorching lands.

Anderson told NPR that experiments with polyurethane foam insulation in tents in Iraq have resulted in a 92% reduction in energy use and the removal of 11,000 fuel trucks from the road. But he also said that Pentagon brass are less than eager to implement such energy- and life-saving measures. “People look at it and say ‘It’s not my lane. We don’t need to tie the operational commanders’ hands’– things like this,” he said. “A simple policy signed by the secretary of defense– a one-or two-page memo, saying we will no longer build anything other than energy-efficient structures in Iraq and Afghanistan– would have a profound impact.”

A British airman provides security cover for a fuel convoy in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: ISAF/ John Collins)

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One Comment

  1. Peter ByckJune 27, 2011 at 8:27 pmReply

    So now we learn that the Dept of Defense is spending $20 billion air conditioning tents “in a hot sandy place,” as Amory Lovins says in our new documentary, Carbon Nation (@co2nation, http://www.carbonnationmovie.com). And our soldiers are dying delivering all that fuel that’s being wasted in the diesel generators at our forward operating bases (FOB), because fuel convoys at prime targets. This is waste upon waste: as Dan Nolan adds, our soldiers are dying while “we are basically air conditioning the desert.” Carbon Nation is about solutions. And the FOB solution is to insulate the tents with foam, reducing the fuel load to less than a fifth of what was needed before. That’s one fuel convoy for every five previously. But these solutions keep on coming. Watching Navy Sec. Ray Mabus speak last month, I was blown away by his new goal: to have his Navy (which includes the Marines) to have all of its fuel, all of it, to be U.S-made biofuel by 2020. Biofuel that uses no food sources or arable land. Biofuel 2.0.

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