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Cost of fuel for Defense Department: location and planning

Dan Barrett
March 26, 2010

With the cost of petroleum climbing, and more importantly unpredictably fluctuating, the Pentagon is looking at ways to balance out its behemoth gas consumption – 300,000 per day totaling 1.5% of national consumption. Cost scores include factors such as direct and indirect fuel infrastructure operations, environmental considerations, and regulatory compliance, but force protection for convoys is quickly becoming the largest piece in getting fuel where troops need it.

In a new National Defense article, How Much Does the Pentagon Pay for a Gallon of Gas?, Sandra Erwin helps break down the location costs of military fuel through Defense Logistics Agency estimates:

  • Up front military fuel: $2.82 per gallon
  • Ground shipped to forward-deployed location (peacetime): $13.00 per gallon
  • In-flight refueling: $42.00 per gallon
  • Army helicopter delivered: $400 per gallon
  • Hostile “in theater”: between $100 and $600

Of course, costs vary depending on the level of development and connectedness of a particular theater. A $400 per gallon cost in Afghanistan, likely an inflated figure, maybe half the cost in Iraq because, according to Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter, Afghanistan is “landlocked, rugged, [and] the road network is much thinner than Iraq and it has fewer airports.” There are also many crossover fuel exchanges between branches, especially with the Air Force refueling Navy planes but the AF is billed for the consumption.

The Pentagon is looking at ways to both cut consumption with cleaner technologies (flex fuels and fuel cells) and to start seriously considering platform energy consumption at time of design and purchase. With the M1 Abrams Battle Tank performing at 0.6 miles per gallon, we can all get behind more bang for our tax dollars through better practices and goals.


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