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Piqued Oil Interest

Overstating the Priority for United States Military Fuel Sustainability in Australia


Reducing the United States military’s petroleum consumption became a declared Obama Administration-era policy. This policy was often framed as a measure to address the tactical losses suffered during fuel supply operations in the Middle East, but there were notable links to environmental and broader energy security agendas. While the US military undertook a large number of mostly modest initiatives to reduce tactical fuel consumption, overall organisational fuel consumption has remained persistently steady for most of this century; consumption peaked during intense military operations in the Middle East, and existing military hardware continues to require large quantities of fuel. During this period, a prominent argument emerged in Australian strategic commentary suggesting that the Australian military should follow the lead of the United States by making major changes to reduce tactical fuel consumption. In making this demand, Australian commentators either misunderstood or misrepresented the extent of the fuel-related changes adopted by the US military. The lack of grounding in existing theory—either within Australian defence policy or within military logistics theory—and the common application of a basic comparison with the actions of the United States military has been predominant. While Australian policymakers have mostly considered military fuel sustainability and broader logistics to be lower priority issues, with some recent focus on domestic facilities and governance, commentators have focused on niche issues that could only be pursued if more fundamental aspects of the capability were established. Meaningful commentary would need to address relative fuel priorities in the Australian Department of Defence; the relative priority of fuel within military logistics; and the relative priority of military logistics within Australian defence policy. A lack of contextualisation has precluded an adequate understanding of the complexities associated with Australian military fuel sustainability.