by Martin H. Bender – The Land Institute
During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, US military forces consumed about as much fuel as the seven Persian Gulf countries that assisted them. This US fuel use was equal to one-fifth of all energy consumed by the entire US Department of Defense during 1991, the latter amount typical of the years 1975-1991 (US DOE 2001).
Since then, the US DOD has become conscious of fuel consumption. For example, fuel constitutes 70% of the gross tonnage moved when the US Army deploys (US DOD 2001). In other words, much military fuel is spent moving fuel around. In fact, deployment during Desert Shield required six months, and it was estimated that if the Abrams tank had been 50% more fuel efficient, then the reduced deployment of fuel and infrastructure could have been completed one month sooner (US DOD 2001). Annual energy consumption by the US DOD has gradually declined since 1992 to 133 million barrels in 2000 (US DOE 2001).
Military consumption of oil in the form of fuel during the war was far exceeded by losses resulting from Iraqi sabotage of Kuwaiti oil fields and terminals (Table 1). Almost as much sabotaged oil was lost on the ground in “oil lakes” as was used by US forces in the war, and more than 25 times that amount was lost in flared oil and natural gas. In fact, the amount flared was roughly 50% greater than Kuwait’s prewar annual oil production.
As a result of Iraqi sabotage of the Kuwaiti supertanker oil terminal, the net loss of oil into gulf waters was the largest spill in global history. However, it amounted to only one-tenth of the oil lost in “oil lakes” on the ground. Nonetheless, the net loss was twice the largest supertanker spill of 2 million barrels in a 1979 collision near Tobago and 2.5 times the 1978 Amoco Cadiz supertanker spill of 1.6 million barrels near France (Economist 2002). Estimates range from 250,000 to 3 million barrels for annual oil spillage from supertankers and industries into Persian Gulf waters, an environmental price of being the world’s major oil highway (Baumann 2001).
The amount of oil and natural gas flared in Kuwaiti oil fires from Iraqi sabotage was at least 50% greater than US import of Persian Gulf oil during1991. This import was typical of the years 1989-1994, in which Persian Gulf imports were 19-25% of all US oil imports (US DOE 1999, 2003). The total amount flared as a result of the war still exceeded US oil import from the gulf in 2000, the latter nearly equal to the 1977 peak several decades ago, but still only 22% of all US 2000 oil imports (Dubow 2001, US DOE 2003).
Although the amount of oil lost from Iraqi sabotage was not trivial, the greater impact was from the resulting economic and ecological effects. The rehabilitation of Kuwait’s oil industry exceeded $5 billion, not counting $1.5 billion spent on firefighting (US DOD 2000). Including $10 billion in lost economic output during Iraqi occupation, conservative estimates of the total economic cost to Kuwait are in the range of $30-$50 billion (US DOD 2000). Ecological effects of oil spills in the Persian Gulf are magnified by the fact that it takes five years to flush contaminated water through the narrow Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Sea (Baumann 2001).
Ecological effects and health risks from the oil losses have been covered in various reports (e.g., Brauer 2000, Moore 2000, US DOD 2000, Baumann 2001) and bibliographies of the Persian Gulf war (Air University Library 1991, 1994).
This paper, submitted to the “energy and war” website on 13 th February 2003, has been reviewed by two independent reviewers before being published on the website itself. The Land Institute, Salina, Kansas 67401, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Air University Library, 1991. Persian Gulf War, 1990-1991: Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Special Bibliography No. 297. Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Web site, http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/bibs/bib97.htm, viewed 21 November 2002.
Air University Library, 1994. Persian Gulf War, 1990-1991: Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Supplement No. 1. Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Web site, http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/bibs/bib97.htm, viewed 21 November 2002.
Baumann, P.R., 2001. Environmental Warfare: 1991 Persian Gulf War. Department of Geography, State University of New York, Oneonta. Web site, http://employees.oneonta.edu/baumanpr/geosat2/geosat2.htm, viewed 20 November 2002.
Brauer, J., 2000. The effect of war on the natural environment. Presented at the conference, Arms, Conflict, Security and Development. Middlesex University Business School, London, 16-17 June 2000. Web site, http://www.aug.edu/~sbajmb, viewed 11 November 2002.
Dubow, C., 2001. The cost of oil. Forbes.com Weekly Newsletter, 29 October 2001. Web site, http://www.forbes.com/static_html/oil/oil.shtml, viewed 22 November 2002.
Economist, 2002. A game of consequences. The Economist, 23 November 2002, 365 (8300): 75.
Moore, J., 2000. Environmental effects of the Persian Gulf War. Department of Environmental History, University of Vermont, Burlington. Web site, http://www.uvm.edu/~jmoore/envhst/joster/Gulf%20War.html, viewed 21 November 2002.
Stucker, J.P., Schranck, J.F., Dombey-Moore, B., 1994. Assessment of DoD Fuel Standardization Policies. RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California. Web site, http://www.rand.org, viewed 20 November 2002.
US DOD, 2000. Environmental Exposure Report: Oil Well Fires. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Secretary of Defense, Washington, DC. Web site, http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/owf_ii/index.htm, viewed 21 November 2002.
US DOD, 2001. More Capable Warfighting through Reduced Fuel Burden. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Washington, DC. Web site, http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/fuel.pdf, viewed 20 November 2002.
US DOE, 1999. International Petroleum Statistics Report April 1999. US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC. Web site, http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/international/ipm/05209704.pdf, viewed 22 November 2002.
US DOE, 2001. Annual Energy Review 2001. US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC. Web site, http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer, viewed 22 November 2002.
US DOE, 2002. International Energy Outlook 2002. US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC. Web site, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/tbl_11.html, viewed 22 November 2002.
US DOE, 2003. International Petroleum Monthly January 2003. US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC. Web site, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/ipsr/t410.xls, viewed 13 February 2003.
Consumption and losses of oil during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, relative to production and exports. Million barrels of oil-equivalent Reference Military energy consumption United States, fuel in war a 45 Stucker et al. 1994 7 Persian Gulf countries, fuel in war a,b 42 ” ” US DOD, all energy types in 1991 220 c US DOE 2001 Net Kuwaiti losses from war sabotage d Oil fires, oil >1,000 US DOD 2000 Oil fires, natural gas 100 ” ” From oil wells onto land 40 e Brauer 2000 From supertanker terminal into gulf 4 f Baumann 2001 Production and exports Kuwait’s prewar annual oil production 700 US DOD 2000 Persian Gulf oil exports To US in 1991 673 US DOE 2003 To US in 2000 908 ” ” To all countries in 2000 5,400 US DOE 2002 ________________________________
a. From August 1990 through May 1991.
b. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Egypt.
c. Includes US consumption in Persian Gulf war.
d. This excludes oil losses that were recovered (footnotes e and f).
e. Another 20 million barrels were recovered from the oil lakes and marketed.
f. Another 1.5 million barrels were recovered from the gulf and presumably marketed.