Saturday, August 04, 2007

Oil costs $1,190 a barrel in Iraq: A Top US. Marine Corps General & the Iraqi power minister are ignored.

For a long time I thought I was one of the select few people that saw the obvious advantages of distributed energy in war torn Iraq. When power lines are being blown up by terrorists and "melted into ingots and sold" it doesn't make sense to use a centralized power system. This is especially true when the power grid is deteriorating at an alarming rate.

It seems some key officials in both Iraq and the US Military have had similar thoughts. From Amory Lovins:
Some of us have made three attempts at [bringing decentralized power to Iraq] and there's a fourth now under discussion. The first three attempts, the third of which was backed by the Iraqi power minister, were vetoed by the U.S. political authorities on the grounds that they'd already given big contracts to Bechtel, Halliburton, et. al to rebuild the old centralized system, which of course the bad guys are knocking down faster than it can be put back up.
A similar request was made by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer. He's the top U.S. commander in western Iraq and back in September he sent the Pentagon a "Priority 1" request for "a self-sustainable energy solution" including "solar panels and wind turbines." The General says that as long as are transporting fuel for military generators US forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties". Apparently the US spends only $200 million a year annually on fuel, but pays $3.2 billion each year on 20,000 active and 40,000 reserve personnel to transport it. Basically for every dollar of fuel you burn to produce electricity you spend $16 guarding it. That makes a $70 barrel cost $1,190. Keep in mind that the $3.2 billion is just to keep our operations going and does not include the cost of powering Baghdad. With operational costs this high it's no wonder we are having trouble keeping the lights on in Iraq. Despite this US officials insist on using crude oil power plants to generate electricity for Baghdad. One would think that if this much man power is required to protect a fuel supply line then reducing the amount of fuel we need to transport would be a top priority. This would seem especially important when the army is falling 2,150 recruits short of meeting a monthly recruiting goal and soldiers are suing the US army due to a stop-loss policy which keeps troops committed to their units for 18 months beyond their discharge date. I don't have any quantitative numbers on the challenges of securing the Baghdad oil-powered electrical plant supply lines and power grid but it's obvious our current techniques are not working.

Note: Updated the last post on this topic

The Christian Science Monitor, In the Iraqi war zone, US Army calls for 'green' power, Mark Clayton, 07 Sep 2006
Gristmill, Green Is the New Camouflage, U.S. general in Iraq calls for renewable power
GristMill, All You Need Is Lovins, A conversation with energy guru Amory Lovins, David Roberts, 26 Jul 2007, Army Still Misses Recruiting Targets, Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2005
BBC, US troops sue over tours in Iraq, Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 00:50 GMT

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