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Hidden carbon costs of the “everywhere war”: Logistics, geopolitical ecology, and the carbon boot-print of the US military

  • Climate and Community Project


This paper examines the US military's impact on climate by analysing the geopolitical ecology of its global logistical supply chains. Our geopolitical ecology framework interrogates the material‐ecological metabolic flows (hydrocarbon‐based fuels, water, sand, concrete) that shape geopolitical and geoeconomic power relations. We argue that to account for the US military as a major climate actor, one must understand the logistical supply chain that makes its acquisition and consumption of hydrocarbon‐based fuels possible. Our paper focuses on the US Defense Logistics Agency – Energy ( DLA ‐E), a large yet virtually unresearched sub‐agency within the US Department of Defense. The DLA ‐E is the primary purchase‐point for hydrocarbon‐based fuels for the US military, as well as a powerful actor in the global oil market. After outlining our geopolitical ecology approach, we detail the scope of the DLA ‐E's operations, its supply chain, bureaucratic practices, and the physical infrastructure that facilitates the US military's consumption of hydro‐based carbons on a global scale. We show several “path dependencies” – warfighting paradigms, weapons systems, bureaucratic requirements, and waste – that are put in place by military supply chains and undergird a heavy reliance on carbon‐based fuels by the US military for years to come. The paper, based on comprehensive records of bulk fuel purchases we have gathered from DLA ‐E through Freedom of Information Act requests, represents a partial yet robust picture of the geopolitical ecology of American imperialism.
Hidden carbon costs of the everywhere war: Logistics,
geopolitical ecology, and the carbon bootprint of the US
Oliver Belcher
Patrick Bigger
Ben Neimark
Cara Kennelly
Department of Geography, Durham
University, Durham, UK
Lancaster Environmental Centre,
Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
Oliver Belcher
This paper examines the US military's impact on climate by analysing the geopo-
litical ecology of its global logistical supply chains. Our geopolitical ecology
framework interrogates the materialecological metabolic flows (hydrocarbon
based fuels, water, sand, concrete) that shape geopolitical and geoeconomic power
relations. We argue that to account for the US military as a major climate actor,
one must understand the logistical supply chain that makes its acquisition and
consumption of hydrocarbonbased fuels possible. Our paper focuses on the US
Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLAE), a large yet virtually unresearched
subagency within the US Department of Defense. The DLAE is the primary pur-
chasepoint for hydrocarbonbased fuels for the US military, as well as a powerful
actor in the global oil market. After outlining our geopolitical ecology approach,
we detail the scope of the DLAE's operations, its supply chain, bureaucratic prac-
tices, and the physical infrastructure that facilitates the US military's consumption
of hydrobased carbons on a global scale. We show several path dependencies”–
warfighting paradigms, weapons systems, bureaucratic requirements, and waste
that are put in place by military supply chains and undergird a heavy reliance on
carbonbased fuels by the US military for years to come. The paper, based on
comprehensive records of bulk fuel purchases we have gathered from DLAE
through Freedom of Information Act requests, represents a partial yet robust pic-
ture of the geopolitical ecology of American imperialism.
carbon, Defense Logistics Agency, geopolitical ecology, logistics, supply chains, US military
We exist to provide war fighters with what they need, where they need it, when they do it. (Defense Logistics
Agency, n.d.)
Fuel is the blood of the military’…and is critical to the life of the theater of operation. (U.S. Army Petro-
leum and Water Department, Fort Lee
The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).
© 2019 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
Accepted: 3 May 2019
DOI: 10.1111/tran.12319
Trans Inst Br Geogr. 2019;116.
As climate change gathers pace, it is critical to assess how the world's largest institutions contribute to global environ-
mental change. In this paper, we analyse the United States military's impact on the climate by exploring the hidden carbon
costs of the everywhere war(Gregory, 2011). Despite the Trump Administration's announcement to withdraw from the
2015 Paris Agreement,
the US military has long understood that it is not immune from the potential consequences of cli-
mate change (see US Department of Defense, 2014), nor has it completely ignored its own contribution to the problem.
The US military sees climate change as a threat multiplier,or a condition that will exacerbate other threats, and is fast
becoming one of the leading federal agencies in the United States to invest in research and adoption of renewable energy
(Gilbert, 2012). These investments include solar and biofuels,
as well as reinforcing base infrastructure to mitigate the
effects of sealevel rise (Bigger & Neimark, 2017).
Nevertheless, the US military's climate policy remains fundamentally contradictory. While the military confronts the
effects of climate change, it remains the largest single institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world (Nuttall et al.,
2017). In the near future, this dependence on fossil fuels is unlikely to change as the USA continues to pursue openended
operations around the globe.
The extraordinary energy requirements for these conflicts has engendered new investments in
fossil fuel delivery infrastructures. These energy demands are coupled with the lifecycles of existing military aircraft and
warships, locking the US military into hydrocarbons for years to come (Unruh, 2000). Even the US military's own ambition
to support development and scaleup production of less carbonintensive kit, from backpackborne solar panels to advanced
biofuels, is driven by the need for ever more energy. For example, new biofuels are meant to be used in extant planes and
ground vehicles without modification, which means that even if those fuels become available at scale, economic and politi-
cal conditions can always force a return to fossil fuelling (cf. Urry, 2014). Besides internal governmental audits, mainly
from the US Department of Defense (DoD), there are few independent, publicderived studies of the US military's fuel con-
sumption, not to mention greenhouse gas emissions (see Liska & Perrin, 2010). This paper addresses this gap on the insti-
tutional practices and configurations that make US military fuel consumption possible, focusing on how a large institution
like the US military contributes to the climate emergency. We show how these practices are moreorless hidden in plain
sight and develop a methodology and interpretive framework to explain them.
We argue that to account for the US military as a major climate actor, one must understand the logistical supply chain
that makes its acquisition and consumption of hydrocarbonbased fuels possible. In our view, one cannot understand the
importance of the US military's supply chains without understanding its geopolitical ecology, and vice versa. Geopolitical
ecology is a theoretical framework that combines political ecology with critical geopolitics to gain deeper insight into the
impact of large geopolitical institutions on environmental change (Bigger & Neimark, 2017). For us, focusing on the
geopolitical ecology of military fuel consumption means paying particular attention to the materialecological metabolic
flows (e.g., hydrocarbonbased fuels) enacted through US military supply chains. Building on this framework, we draw
novel links between critical logistics and supply studies (Chua et al., 2018; Cowen, 2014; Tsing, 2009), geopolitics, and
political ecology (Benjaminsen et al., 2017), with the purpose of setting a new geopolitical ecology research agenda. More-
over, in doing so, we bring together the insights of civilian energy geographies (Bouzarovski & Haarstad, 2018; Bridge et
al., 2018; Lyall & Valdivia, 2019; Mulvaney, 2019) and recent cuttingedge geographical work on the infrastructurena-
turefinance nexus (Cantor & Knuth, 2019; Usher, 2018) with the massive hidden carbon costs of the US military.
Our examination of the US military's carbon bootprintbegins with the US Defense Logistics Agency Energy
(DLAE), a powerful yet virtually unresearched subagency within the larger Defense Logistics Agency.
The Defense
Logistics Agency oversees the massive global supply chains of the US military from energy, services, munitions and
parts, to maintenance distribution for military operations. The subagency DLAE specifically works to deliver the energy
needs of all US federal agencies, as well as multinational corporations, private contractors, and countries allied with the
USA. The DLAE has a worldwide distribution infrastructure for hydrocarbon fuels delivery and provides logistical and
planning support to the military's geographic combat commands and warzones around the world. The DLAE is also the
primary purchasepoint for hydrocarbonbased fuels for the US military, both domestically and internationally.
The DLAE maintains records of bulk fuel purchases by US military personnel, both domestically and internationally.
Through multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, we compiled a database of DLAE records for all known
land, sea, and aircraft fuel purchases, as well as fuel contracts made with US operators in military posts, camps, stations,
and ship bunkers abroad from FY 2013 to 2017.
We draw on this database to examine the DLAE and its bureaucratic
and infrastructural capacity to meet carbonintensive fuel requirements for US military operations.
This paper aims to answer two overarching questions. First, how is carbonintensive American imperialism made possi-
ble through the DLAE supply chains? Second, what are the physical and organisational path dependencies
of that sprawl-
ing apparatus that make it likely that the everywhere warwill become more, rather than less, carbon intensive? In the
great accelerationof economic growth after the Second World War (McNeill & Engelke, 2016), there has been a
correspondence between environmental degradation and the dramatic increase in richworld consumption made possible
through modern logistics and supply chains, even if the explicit link between supply chains and the environment has been
undertheorised. By critically examining the DLAE's logistical practices based on justintimesupply chain technologies
and delivery capacities developed in tandem with powerful multinational corporations we show how the material infras-
tructure of the DLAE makes possible the carbon costswe demonstrate here.
In the next section, we present geopolitical ecology as a framework for understanding the hidden carbon costs of the
US military's supply chain. In the subsequent section, we examine the DLAE's supplychain infrastructure, how the agency
functions, and the scope of its operations. Based on our DLAE records database, we explore how it becomes possible to
procure, distribute, store, and consume the massive volume of fuels required for contemporary military operations. It is
important to note that this is a partial picture of the US military's carbon bootprint.What our critical analysis of the
DLAE allows is an understanding of the bureaucratic practices and physical infrastructure required to facilitate the US mil-
itary's consumption of hydrocarbonbased fuels on a global scale, which, we argue, can only be appreciated by examining
the scope of its supply chains. We outline several path dependencies”–warfighting paradigms (e.g., counterinsurgency),
weapon systems, bureaucratic requirements that sustain a heavy reliance upon carbonbased fuels into the interminable
future barring a radical rupture in US foreign policy. Our focus on the DLAE's international flows illustrates its central
role in making the everywhere warpossible, from Special Forces shadow engagements to major conventional operations,
and allows us to highlight how the hidden carbon costs of war are produced.
Geopolitical Ecology and Institutional Bureaucracy
We begin from the premise that materialecological metabolic flows shape geopolitical and geoeconomic power relations.
In what follows, we make visible the scale of logistical practices required by the US military to burn vast quantities of
hydrocarbons. A geopolitical ecology framework exposes the larger institutional processes at work in the material produc-
tion of global natures (Labban, 2010; Mitchell, 2011; Usher, 2018; Valdivia, 2008), and in our case, the contribution of
militaries to environmental change at a variety of scales (cf. Ojeda, 2012; Ybarra, 2012). By mobilising geopolitical ecol-
ogy, we develop synergies between the careful attention to multiscale environmental politics in political ecology, and the
discursivematerial coconstitution of global institutional politics(Bigger & Neimark, 2017, p. 14).
This explicit encounter between critical geopolitics and political ecology is not necessarily new (Benjaminsen et al.,
2017; Dalby, 2015; Harris, 2017; Parenti, 2011), but remains timely, as the effects of climate change and some of the mas-
sive institutions that are most responsible, such as the US military, are left generally unchecked, both within the critical lit-
erature and outside the academy. Here, we emphasise that the military's selfstyled relationship to the environment justifies
the selfprovisioning of infrastructure and material resources needed to carry out the protection of scarce nature, both home
and abroad(Bigger & Neimark, 2017, p. 16). Our geopolitical ecological framework moves scholarship on global nat-
uresinto new analytical territory by incorporating the material elements of hydrocarbons and its supply lines that actually
shape geopolitical relations. For example, by focusing on the material infrastructure of the U.S. military that actually exists
outside of its greeningpolicy papers, our approach calls into question the veracity of the US military's attempt to rebrand
itself as an ecologically friendly actor.
Critical geographic research on the hydrocarbon infrastructures for US military provision hardly exists. The conditions
under which the US military operates are constantly shifting in light of rapidly changing geopolitical and ecological dynam-
ics. There have been three significant shifts in US warfighting over the past 20 years. First, in the late1990s revolution in
military affairs(RMA), there was an emphasis on networkcentricmilitary capabilities coupled with conventional air
bombing (shock and awe). A more groundtroop intensive approach followed in the midto late2000s embrace of coun-
terinsurgency (see 4.2 below). Lastly, in our current period, there has been a hybrid special operationscentric mode of
warfighting buttressed by digital informationbased technologies, such as drones and hightech computing (Niva, 2013).
The US military's current climate change security strategy evolves along with these changes in combat paradigms, orienting
its institutional approach to an unpredictable geopolitical order that is slowly being upended by the climate crisis (Dalby,
2014; Gilbert, 2012).
Every mode of warfighting requires its own unique hydrocarbon delivery system. The DLAE is the bureaucratic appara-
tus mainly responsible for procurement and arranging delivery of hydrocarbons in this shifting geopolitical environment,
and therefore controls the size and shape of the US military's carbon bootprint. Without the highly developed,
professionalised logistics and military supplychains, the US military's reach, as well as its capacity to burn so much fuel,
would be substantially impeded. Yet we know very little about the DLAE's sprawling operations or its own role as a cli-
mate actor.
How can we use a geopolitical ecology to understand the processes and procedures behind the US military as a climate
actor? What is the infrastructure and daytoday bureaucratic process that makes this massive fuelprovisioning operation
possible? Scott (2008, p. 48) defines bureaucracy as the existence of a specialized administrative staffor as the increas-
ing subdivisionof organisational functions all components that can be applied for understanding the DLAE. It is an
institution that hides in plain sight,as it were, behind the US military. A study of the bureaucracy of the DLAEis
important to expose the oftoverlooked aspects of the military's ability to wage the everywhere war. As Weber discusses,
bureaucracy is a rationallegal form of domination and control(2013, p. 300) that systematically organises human activity
and complex processes for purposes of efficiency and order. Kuus has noted that modernday institutions are too often dis-
missed as lumbering ironcage bureaucracies(2018, p. 1). The US military and DLAE are not lumbering at all, as they
lockina future of highly mobile fossilfuelled warfare, in spite of, and likely because of, widespread environment change
(Gilbert, 2012). However, as we show below, geopolitical ecology is more than a focus on institutions as ecological actors.
To appreciate the DLAE's dynamic carboninflected (indeed, constituted) bureaucracy, we must examine their flexible sup-
ply chain infrastructure that, paradoxically, is a primary component of fossil fuel lockin. Thus, the emerging field of criti-
cal logistics and supply studies can help understand the infrastructural basis that makes such materialecological flows
Critical Logistics and Supply Studies
Global supply chains and institutional logistics, as well as the organised spaces produced by corporate managerial logics
and techniques, have lately come under critical scrutiny in a move to interrogate the material infrastructure of global capi-
talism (Bonacich & Wilson, 2008; LeCavalier, 2016; Neilson, 2012; Toscano & Kinkle, 2015). However, with few notable
exceptions (Cowen, 2014; Crampton et al., 2014; Gregory, 2012; Khalili, 2017), there has been relatively little written on
the role of supply chains in contemporary US military practices, not to mention the role of supply chains in contributing to
climate change more generally (Bergmann, 2013; Bergmann & Holmberg, 2016; Carse & Lewis, 2017). This is surprising
given that, from a historical perspective, logistics and supply chains, as a way of organising the movement of goods and
services, are fundamentally a military technology.
As Deborah Cowen (2014) has emphasised, the entanglement between logistics and military operations has only grown
more pronounced as corporate management practices have assumed a privileged position within the US military since at
least the Vietnam War (Gibson, 1986). Ucko (2009) has shown how US counterinsurgency doctrine, adopted by the US
Army in the mid2000s as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were chaotically deteriorating, incorporated a small business
model approach to provisions, technology development, and tactical operations. This enacted a bottomupcommand
structure that enabled ontheground officers to challenge the provision assumptions of US commanders running the wars
from Central Command in Tampa, Florida and the Pentagon.
For Cowen, what is important is not so much the US mili-
tary adopting management techniques and practices fashioned by multinational corporations. Rather, it is that US corpora-
tions are also reliant on the US military to secure their own logistical supply chains; or, more precisely, that there is a
symbiotic relationship between the military and corporate sector. In terms of liquid fuel logistics, one might think of the
role the US military plays in securing oil shipping routes, some portion of which the military is likely to go on to burn.
This is a matter,Cowen writes, not only [of] military forces clearing the way for corporate trade but corporations
actively supporting militaries as well The entanglement of military and corporate logics may be deepening and changing
form, but logistics was never a stranger to the world of warfare(2014, p. 4). For this reason, Khalili stresses the role of
the US military as a wielder of capitalist infrastructural power(2017, p. 2; original emphasis):
This role includes not only the US military's provision of large contracts to private businesses, but also espe-
cially the construction of the physical and virtual infrastructures that underlie the emergence of liberal capital-
ism overseas. Nor is this activity limited to wartime. In fact, it is in moments of global economic and political
transition, and in ostensible peacetime, that the US military's infrastructural power has been a dispositif central
to the task of disseminating liberal capitalism. (Khalili, 2017, p. 2)
What is at stake for the US military in logistics and the DLAmanaged supplychain infrastructure for its current wars?
It is the movement of lethal matériel to a host of conflict zones and dirty wars across the globe, interconnected through thin
channels of mobile supply, rather than to a handful of battlefields relatively localised in a specific region or place. As
Derek Gregory notes, it is, above all, the mobility of military violence that is central to the conduct of latemodern war
(2012, n.p.). The DLA is the institution which ensures that mobility across the globe. However, there is an important mate-
riality to the logistical movement of lethal matériel. As Chua et al. (2018, p. 618) have argued, logistics must be under-
stood both as a calculative rationalityand a suite of spatial practicesthat ensure the circulation of capital, commodities,
bodies, services, and information, to overcome the friction of distance(Gregory, 2012). Logistics is a calculative rational-
ity insofar as it seems to abstract the movement of people, goods, and services from their operational context; subject these
movements to logics of precision and streamlining efficiency; and finally (re)orient the movements along predetermined
pathways (i.e., the supplychain). Logistical thinking,Chua et al. write, prioritizes quantity over quality, reducing the
diverse relations of production and distribution to delivery times, stockkeeping units and other values amenable to mea-
surement and calculation(2018, p. 621). Logistical thinking is coupled with a sprawling physically networked infrastruc-
ture whose management can often be messy, improvised, and thus flexible from containers to container handling
equipment, container ships and GPS tracking systems, to IT networks and new software.
We share Cowen's and Khalili's interest in the role of these calculative rationalities and spatial practices in fostering a
new logistical imperialism(Cowen, 2014, p. 195), which better highlights the geoeconomic role of the US military in
fostering global supply chains. However, our purpose is to shift the focus somewhat by underscoring the relationship
between the material reality of military supply chains, as managed by the Defense Logistics Agency, and the distribution of
carbonbased fuels and emission of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) along its supply chains that is, we wish to examine its
geopolitical ecology.
Aims and background of DLAE
In this section, we detail how the DLAE came to assume a powerful role in global fuel markets, as well as the physical
infrastructure and logistical practices it engages to carry out its mission. The Defense Logistics Agency, the umbrella
administration housing the DLAE, was established in 1961 as the Defense Supply Agency under President Kennedy and
Defense Secretary McNamara. Since that time, the broad mission of the Defense Logistics Agency has been to provide a
fullspectrum supply chainfor its warfighting and other missions such as humanitarian operations (McGuire, 2009). The
Defense Logistics Agency has a worldwide distribution infrastructure that provides logistics and staffplanning support to
the military's geographic combat commands and war zones around the world.
The DLAE has its roots in the Second World War as part of the Department of Interior's ArmyNavy Petroleum Board,
which later became the Joint ArmyNavy Purchasing Agency. The DLAE specifically manages the energy requirements of
military and federal agencies and departments, as well as various foreign militaries. The DLAEisthe onestop shop for
fuelling purchases and contracts within the US military both domestically and internationally, and acts as the US military's
internal market for all consumables, including fuel. DLA serves as the entry point for energy companies to US military
operations, as the DLAE conducts regular competitive bidding for lucrative, predictable contracts to supply militarygrade
liquid fuels for warfighting.
The question of fuel and fuelling, and the geographies of each, has been central to US military operations for nearly its
entire history. The US military's reliance on hydrocarbons began with the US Navy's 1814 commissioning of Demologos,a
coalfired paddlesteamer warship sunk by an explosive gunpowder accident on the Brooklyn Naval Yards in June 1829,
killing 48 men. Throughout the 19th and 20thcenturies, hydrocarbon fuels were increasingly critical as warfare became
increasingly mechanised. Liquid fuels, both their use and their procurement, were a central concern for military planners
beginning with the US Navy's transition from coal to dieselpowered combustion with the launch of the Great White
Fleetin 1906 (Yergin, 1990). The switch from coal to diesel was highly controversial in its time, opposed by a majority
in the US Congress primarily on logistical grounds, namely as questions of access to fuel outside of wellestablished coal-
ing stations were thought to pose a grave national security risk. President Theodore Roosevelt addressed these concerns in
1907 by ordering the US Navy to construct the first global hydrocarbon supply system (Mauer, 1981). The significance of
this moment cannot be overstated, as it was the genesis for the US military's modern supply chain for hydrocarbon fuels.
Prior to the 1961 creation of the Defense Supply Agency (renamed the Defense Logistics Agency in 1977), procurement
and distribution of matérial and fuel was the responsibility of individual branches of the US armed forces, meaning that
each branch had its own acquisition practices, distribution networks, and fuel standards used for various vehicles. This
meant, in effect, that the military was maintaining separate, and potentially overlapping, supply chains. As the Cold War
heated up in the 1950s and 60s, the modes of conveyance required for military operations from larger naval vessels,
including aircraft carriers, to ground and air transport (e.g., the introduction of helicopters as mechanised cavalryin Viet-
nam) required unprecedented energy demands by the US Department of Defense (Gibson, 1986). The increasing demand
for fuel, as well as access and interoperability between military branches, was a primary driver behind the creation of a sin-
gle bureaucratic entity for managing the global supply infrastructure of military operations.
The consolidation of supply and logistics services was a relatively slowmoving process, which is unsurprising given
the sheer scale of purchasing and distribution conducted by the US military, and points to the momentumthat sociotech-
nical institutions produce and to which they are beholden (Hughes, 1969). However, the reorganised fuel infrastructure was
largely in place as the American presence in Vietnam grew in 1965. During the Second World War, each US soldier con-
sumed, on average, one gallon of fuel per day. By the end of the Vietnam War, that number jumped to nine gallons per
day per soldier (Karbuz, 2006). That ninefold increase demonstrates some of the many differences between the Second
World War and Vietnam, reflecting (in part) the increased use of airpower; e.g., the use of F105s and F4 Phantoms in
Vietnam bombing missions, and combat helicopters (cf. Clodfelter, 2006). However, it also reflects how the Defense Sup-
ply Agency was successful in creating both infrastructure and logistical practices to deliver massive volumes of fuel in war.
US military fuel consumption is even higher today. According to the Swiss security thinktank Deloitte LLP, since the
Vietnam War, there has been a 175% increase in gallons of fuel consumed per US soldier per day In today's conflicts
[in Afghanistan and Iraq], fuel consumption is 22 gallons used, per soldier, per day, for an average annual increase of 2.6%
in the last 40 years(Deloitte, 2009, p. 1).
The refinement in managing energy supply chains reflected a broader organisational shift within the Department of
Defense in the 1960s. Defense Secretary McNamara, the former CEO of Ford Motor Company and trained in statistics and
economics at Harvard, was especially enamoured by systems analysis and computers capable of vast numbercrunching
(Barnes, 2015). The RAND Corporation, closely aligned with the US military, was responsible for developing systems
analysisfor managing military budgets and the distribution of resources (McCann, 2017). As Cowen (2014) shows, sys-
tems analysis developed by military intellectuals and statisticians fed directly into the contemporary management and logis-
tics economy.
Since Vietnam, the Defense Logistics Agency has undergone a number of name changes and organisational realign-
ments, but its service mission of supplying petroleum, and all other consumables, to the US military has essentially
remained the same. As one government official put it, America's military infrastructure is a large part of what makes it
dominant During and before World War II, every military branch had its own way of dealing with logistics, and now
it's been consolidated and turned into one overarching middleman(Koebler, 2015; n.p.). Over the past 20 years, there has
been a widening of the scope of DLAE services delivery. In 1998, the object of DLAE management transitioned from the
management of energy infrastructure to the management of energy products (DLA, 2017). This subtle shift entailed the
expansion of logistical competencies for the subagency, leading to a comprehensive suite of logistical fuelbased supply
chain practices deployed by the DLAE to every corner of the globe. These developments have strengthened the DLAE's
current and unique position in presentday global fuel markets, for it is not just a provider of infrastructure for fuel distribu-
tion but actively manages a dense web of relationships, contracts, and material facilities.
DLAE logistics and operations
Now that we have a picture of the emergence of the bureaucratic apparatus that facilitates the acquisition and distribution
of staggering volumes of fuel, we can turn to the DLAE's logistics operations. The institutional path dependencies that
made consolidation difficult are still in place in many ways, and these path dependencies play a critical role in reproducing
the US military's spatialities of energy, as access to refined hydrocarbons is fundamentally important to every aspect of its
operations. Even as branches continued their own procurement of weapons systems, the Pentagon moved to consolidate fuel
acquisition and distribution throughout the 1960s. The early move to consolidate energy logistics for the US military,
before food or other necessities of war, demonstrates the centrality of fuels within the supplychain infrastructure.
Given the spread of US operations across the globe, the DLAE's material infrastructure for fuel is correspondingly
sprawling. The DLAE's global supply chains are inextricably tethered to other, nonmilitary logistics systems, such as pri-
vate contractors who traffic between military and nonmilitary clients (Cowen, 2014). The DLA's task is to coordinate all
aspects of contracting, procurement, storage, and distribution with both internal and external entities to ensure that fuel
(and all other materials) arrives when needed. The DLAE uses a US Government internal ecommerce platform called FED-
MALL to manage this supply chain. Essentially the Amazon.comof federal agency commerce, FEDMALL is an online
shopping catalogue maintained by the Defense Logistics Agency that allows federal agencies to purchase governmentcom-
pliant goods from external vendors. FEDMALL grew off the Department of Defense's DOD eMALL, the Defense Logistics
Agency's first webordering interface unveiled in 1993, and was one of the first examples of ecommerce, again demonstrat-
ing the tight linkages between military and commercial logistical practices (Cowen, 2014; Johnson & Lucyshyn, 2003).
To give a picture of the DLAE's daily energy operations, the agency handles 14 million gallons of fuel worth $53 mil-
lion per day (DLA, 2015). Operating from a nondescript building in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the DLAE has an extensive
chain of sites for distribution and delivery, with 258 terminal operations worldwide (DLA, 2017). Moreover, the DLAE
has delivery capacity to 2,023 military posts, camps, and stations in 38 countries; 230 bunker contract locations in 51 coun-
tries; and 506 intoplane contract locations in 97 countries. On a daily basis, the DLAE makes US$1.1 million in foreign
military sales of fuel (DLA, 2015). At DLAE headquarters, there are 23 office heads (such as Business Process Support,
Bulk Petroleum Supply Chain Service,”“Manpower and Workforce Analysis,and Procurement Process Support,etc.)
that provide implementation support for the DLAE's regional offices across the USA, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and
Bahrain. In turn, these offices coordinate the purchase and movement of fuels around the world, as well as manage con-
tracts with utilities, negotiating access to fuel infrastructure in foreign countries, down to the management of individual fuel
purchase cards, along with every other step in managing the massive task of fuelling interminable global wars. It is worth
examining, as part of the DLAE's structure and practices, the scale of US interventions currently underway. After all, the
goal of the US military is not the consumption of fossil fuels, but its goals require that consumption. Savell (2018) has
recently mapped the breathtaking swath of the globe over which US military activities are situated. Between 2015 and
2017, the US military was active in 76 countries, including seven countries on the receiving end of air/drone strikes, 15
countries with boots on the ground,44 overseas military bases, and 56 countries receiving counterterrorism training
(Savell, 2018). Each of these missions requires energy often considerable amounts of it and the DLAE is the institu-
tion that supplies it.
In the development of its fuel supply chains, the DLAE and the US military commit to particular hydrocarbonbased
path dependencies, or situation[s] where the present policy choice is constrained or shaped by institutional paths that result
from choices made in the past(Torfing, 2009, p. 71). In the case of US military reliance on fossil fuels, these institutional
paths include decisions about procurement of infrastructure like pipelines and fuel tankers, but also organisational and spe-
cialist knowledge, computer hardware and software to manage daily operations. The kinds of knowledge practices required
to keep the furnace burning range from the personal relationships that local fuel distribution companies cultivate with
DLAE's small business liaison who supplies fuel to domestic installations, to the expertise required at DLAE's laboratories
to test and certify fuels for military specification. These laboratories, located in Germany, Alaska, South Korea, and Japan,
are tasked with testing samples for quality control of fuels, as well as training soldiers in onsite testing methods (DLA,
The fuels delivered by the DLAE power everything from routine base operations in the USA to forward operating bases
(FOBs) in Afghanistan. In FY2017, the DLAE managed US$8 billion in contracts, and was staffed by around 1,200
employees, both military and civilian, on an annual budget of US$14.6 billion (DLA, 2017).
However, this budget takes
into account only the direct costs of fuel acquisition and distribution, of which some of the cost must be borne both by the
wider Defense Logistics Agency and the military branches themselves. The full cost of liquid fuel delivery is significantly
higher when accounting for the dangerous conditions when it is delivered in nonconventional battle spaces,such as
Afghanistan (Gregory, 2012). Indeed, a primary reason the US military has worked to greenits operations is precisely to
cutback on the extraordinary costs of fuelling wars in remote areas (Deloitte, 2009), as well as the rigidity that high fuel
costs impose on overall military spending. Every dollar spent on fuel is a dollar not spent on military kit or operations
(Vidal, 2010). However, the acute interest in alternative fuels has recently dropped out of many military documents.
The deemphasis of nonfossil fuels has not occurred because military contributions to climate change have fallen in any
meaningful way. Rather, the drift away from renewables seems to be driven by a combination of factors that include the
availability of domestically produced fuels as a result of the fracking boom, persistently low and relatively stable oil prices,
and a reduction in longterm deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq where oil delivery accounted for significant costs. The
most active period of renewables development and discourse was between 2008, when global oil prices peaked at nearly
US$150/barrel, and 2011, when the average oil prices was US$111/barrel, the first time oil prices averaged more than $100
for a year (Energy Information Agency, 2012; Read, 2008). The need to curtail fuel usage seems to have rhetorically sub-
sided as the way the US conducts war has shifted from energyhungry FOBs, and the DLAE focuses on wartime effec-
tiveness and peacetime efficiency(DLA, 2017, p. 22). Given the openendedness of the everywhere war, the DLAE's
logistical practices of fuelling seem increasingly tailored to the effectiveness side of the equation indefinitely.
The result of coordinated action of the US military's logistics operations, particularly given its extraordinary and flexible
budget, is the capacity to acquire and send fuel anywhere in the world. The larger DLA's expertise in developing supply
lines over the course of the last two decades also allows the agency to build logistics networks where they are not yet con-
solidated as the everywhere war continues to expand. While the headline numbers are staggering, as is their environmental
cost, the bureaucratic processes that make it a reality are extremely mundane and look very much like any institutional pur-
chasing programme, but on a global scale.
The acquisition of bulk fuels, which comprise by far the largest proportion of
the fuels the military consumes, follows a regular, predictable process. Each fuelpurchasing region will assess projected
needs for the upcoming year based on modelling done in dialogue between military branches and DLA staff. The acquisi-
tion process is planned, and then the request for bids is offered on the US government's public solicitation webpage, Fed-
BizzOpps. Offers received are evaluated and ranked, the winning bid is chosen, final terms are agreed, and the contract
moves from solicitation to management.
Once contracts are agreed, fuels of various types are delivered to agreed supply hubs, where they can be dispatched to
any number of fuel depots. These shipments can either be arranged inhouse, or through a number of logistics contractors.
In 2017, the DLAE made over 25,000 fuel shipments, or about 68 shipments per day. Of these, more than 80% took place
within the continental USA, representing 61% of the total gallons of fuel distributed by the US DLAE (DLAE, 2018).
This flags up a critical point: namely, that fuel consumption, while conditioned to some extent by the modalities of
warfighting, is still primarily located domestically. The US military would be the largest institutional consumer of oil in the
world even without foreign oilfuelled operations. Thus, even a less interventionist US military would remain an important
economic and climate actor.
GHG emissions and the global military logistics network
Based on the preceding discussion, what does the US military look like as a climate actor when one accounts for its mas-
sive logistical supply chain? What is the geopolitical ecology of the movement and usage of military fuels? Here, we draw
on our DLAE records database of US foreign and domestic military fuel purchases between FY2013 and FY2017, includ-
ing military posts, camps, stations, and ship bunkers. The database contains near comprehensive domestic and international
contract information on fueltype purchases. Based on these FOIA requests, we use fuel purchasing and GHG emissions
from 2017, and country GHG emissions data from 2014, as they are the most uptodate and comprehensive dataset of all
the years collected.
Given its extensive institutional infrastructure and operations, both domestically and overseas, the US military consumes
more liquid fuels and emits more CO
e (carbondioxide equivalent
) than many mediumsized countries.
In 2017, the
US military purchased about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted 25,375.8 ktCO
e by burning those fuels (see Fig-
ure 1). If the US military were a country, it would nestle between Peru and Portugal in the global league table of fuel pur-
chasing, when comparing 2014 World Bank country liquid fuel consumption with 2015 US military liquid fuel
consumption. For 2014, the scale of emissions is roughly equivalent to total not just fuel emissions from Romania (Fig-
ure 2). According to our DLAE data, covering GHG emissions in Scope 13,
which includes direct or stationary sources,
indirect or mobile sources, and electricity use, and other indirect, including upstream and downstream emissions, the US
military is the 47th largest emitter of GHG in the world, if only taking into account the emission from fuel usage. This cal-
culation excludes emissions from the electricity and food the military consumes, land use changes from military operations,
or any other source of emissions. Critically, these emissions are not counted as a part of aggregate US emissions following
an exemption granted in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol (which the Bush Administration refused to sign in 2001). This gap
was to be rectified by the Paris Accord, from which the USA, famously, has withdrawn.
All country emissions data were sourced from the World Bank (World Bank, 2017) and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA, 2015). The World Bank data were used to contextualise the emissions data from US military sources in
terms of US total emissions and global emissions. Different levels of emissions data, from individual fuels and departments
of the US military to total emissions, Scope 13 inclusive, were calculated as percentages of US and global emissions to
gain more perspective. Raw data of the tonnes of CO
emissions were compared to World Bank data, scaled up from kg
to tonnes CO
to find the relative position of US military emissions by country.
The DLAE supplies a number of fuels and lubricants to all military branches, but the most common are jet fuel (e.g.,
JP8, Jet A), and terrestrial and marine diesel. Each of these has its own emissions profile and copollutants. For example,
military jet fuel (JP8) is, like all jet fuel, molecularly similar to kerosene, and it emits CO
water, SO
, and NO
in aggregate as carbondioxide equivalent, CO
e). These pollutants are more potent than terrestrial equivalents because
burning at higher altitude produces different kinds of chemical reactions, resulting in warming 24 times greater than on
the ground (IPCC, 2014). This difference in GHG output is one of the reasons why impact is significant, as the bulk of fuel
consumed by the US military is jet fuel used for the Air Force or Navy. The two biggest contributors in kt CO
e are
18,348.9 and 3,633.8 for Jet Fuel and Navy Special (heavy fuel oil), respectively (see Table 1).
Greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory methods for the country data were used by adopting conversion factors sourced from
the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This method allowed the conversion from volumetric measurements of
fuel consumption to kg CO
(EPA, 2015). Further factors were available in each dataset to convert the kg CO
values to
kg CO
e (kilograms of carbondioxide equivalent, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen dioxide emissions)
(Table 2).
The Air Force is by far the largest emitter of GHG at 13,202.4 kt CO
e, almost double that of the US Navy's 7,847.8 kt
e. In addition to using the most polluting types of fuel, the Air Force and Navy are also the largest purchasers of fuel.
In 2017 alone, the Air Force purchased US$4.9 billion worth of fuel and the Navy US$2.8 billion, followed by the Army
at US$947 million and Marines at US$36 million (DLA, 2017).
FIGURE 1 US military carbon emissions (CO
e) in kiloton (kt) and relative comparison by branch (approx.) for year 2017.
Source: Defense Logistics Agency Energy
United States
Russian Federaon
Iran, Islamic Rep.
Saudi Arabia
Korea, Rep.
South Africa
United Kingdom
United Arab Emirates
Egypt, Arab Rep.
Venezuela, RB
Czech Republic
US Military
FIGURE 2 Comparison of US military against top 50 countriesCO
emissions in 2014.
Source: World Bank and DoD GHG 2014
emissions (kt) by fuel type for the year 2017
Fuel type Kt CO
Auto gasoline 167.5
Aviation gasoline 3.5
Biodiesel 15.7
Diesel distillate 817.5
Flex fuel 6.7
Heating fuel 366.8
Jet fuel 18,348.9
Kerosene 1.4
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)/Propane 0.03
Lubricants 5.1
Navy special 3,633.8
Total 23,367.1
emissions (kt) by military branch for the year 2017
Branch Kt CO
e FY2017
Air Force 13,202.4
Army 2,204.7
Marines 1,12.1
Navy 7,847.8
Total 23,367.1
Source: Defense Logistics Agency Energy
Hidden carbon costs and energy path dependencies
Another dimension of the hidden carbon costsin the operations of the US military are the path dependencies builtin to
major strategic commitments such as weapons systems from the assault weapons used by soldiers, to the convoys, air,
and sea carriers that deliver troops to particular sites and the bureaucratic requirements that facilitate the operations of
those commitments. Every step is dependent on a hydrocarbon fuel commitment; that is, hydrocarbon path dependencies
are intertwined with the modes of warfighting chosen by the US military in operational contexts.
Consider the hydrocarbon path dependencies of counterinsurgencies, such as President Obama's surgeof US ground
troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan in 20092010 when counterinsurgency was guiding military doctrine (Belcher,
2014). In contrast to kineticoperations that aim to bring an enemy into submission through a conventional troop presence
and weapons saturation (e.g., air bombings, tank convoys, attack helicopters), counterinsurgency doctrine stresses winning
an occupied population's loyalty to the host stateand US military by turning the people against the insurgency. In US
counterinsurgencies, the military assumes a posture more akin to police (Belcher, 2015), and the arts of persuasion, effec-
tive governance, and economic development become paramount for gaining population support. Therefore, a pronounced
ground troop presence amongst the peoplebecomes an important dimension for the military in the towns or areas where
they are based. Unlike air raids, which can be commanded at a distancefrom a secure military base in the capital (e.g.,
the Green Zone in Baghdad) or US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, counterinsurgency operations in environments
like Afghanistan required establishing FOBs in rural and remote areas where the majority of the Afghan population reside
(Belcher, 2018).
The scale of FOBbased operations in counterinsurgencies is immense. At the height of the war in Afghanistan, there
were over 100 FOBs located throughout the country, mostly in the east and south where the Taliban and other insurgent
groups were strongest. A typical FOB in Afghanistan required a minimum of 300 gallons of diesel a day to operate
(Deloitte, 2009). One appreciates the scale of hydrocarbon use when considering that a single US Marine Corp brigade
operating across of a network of FOBs requires over 500,000 gallons of fuel per day (Deloitte, 2009, p. 15).
As many FOBs are remote relative to major US bases in Bagram and Kandahar, guaranteeing reliable fuel and matériel
supply is a significant logistical difficulty over a wide terrain with little by way of reliable infrastructure. High fuel require-
ments in forwarddeployed locations present the military with a significant logistical burden. More important, the transport
of this fuel via truck convoy represents casualty risks, not only from IEDs and enemy attacks, but also from rough weather,
traffic accidents, and pilferage. DoD officials reported that in June 2008 alone, a combination of these factors caused the
loss of some 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel (Deloitte, 2009, p. 15).
As per Gregory, [b]y the start of 2010 around 3040 percent of bases were being supplied by air because the Taliban
controlled much of Highway 1, the ring road that loops between Afghanistan's major cities, and its IED attacks on NATO
and Afghan forces were increasingly effective(2012, n.p.). Air drops of fuel and other kit to FOBs had their own fuel
delivery cost at an estimated US$400 per gallon by air (Hodge, 2011). For this reason, the US military and USAID
invested heavily in paved road construction in Afghanistan to ease the conveyance of Humvee convoys around the IED
pocked Ring Road, as well as new roads connecting remote FOBs to main transport arteries. Indeed, from the military's
perspective in Afghanistan, roads ain't roads.As Kilcullen (2009, p. 109) writes, people [use] the process of road con-
struction as a framework around which to organize a fullspectrum strategy to separate insurgents from the peoplein
two ways: (1) by creating greater security as it is more difficult to place IEDs on paved roads than dirt roads and (2) by
depriving the insurgency of recruits as local men makeup the road construction work force. What Kilcullen and the US
commanders overlook is the civilian, and indeed the insurgency's, lockin to carbon pathdependencies by their use of the
new infrastructure. Our point is to say that a commitment to a military doctrine, like counterinsurgency, is a commitment
to multidimensional hydrocarbon path dependencies from the supply of fuel to troops, bases, and vehicles; to securing
the logistical supply chain in place to guarantee delivery, including across borders; to building new roads (public works)
for military and civilian use.
In this paper, we argue that to recognise the US military as a climate actor, geographers must understand how they organise
and operate their supply chains. This is particularly true of oil, but also of other material acquisitions like food, machinery,
and other apparently mundane materials (e.g., sand, concrete, and water). As the US military continues to carry out the
everywhere war in some of the least accessible corners of the globe, its supply chains require logistical sophistication like
never before. In this paper, we have given the first picture of the international organisation of global supply chains that
make the everywhere war possible. Moreover, we have stressed that this supply chain is precisely what allows the US mili-
tary to be one of the largest institutional climate actors in the world. Just how is the US able to burn so much oil? Up to
now, we have known very little about its infrastructural capacity to do so. This paper is an attempt to take a first step
toward disclosing the material infrastructure of possibility for US military carbon emissions, and the magnitude of those
How do we account for one of the most farreaching, sophisticated supply chains, and one of the largest climate pol-
luters in history? This is by no means an easy task. First, we need to look beyond the surface of discourse of the recent
greenturn by the US military towards climate adaptation and mitigation, including the adoption of energyefficient tech-
nologies and alternative fuel sourcing. Instead, we emphasise the institutional bureaucracy and the materialdiscursive
infrastructures that make massive hydrocarbon use possible. Based on our DLAE records database, we presented a rough
picture of the US military's current carbon bootprint, and explored how it becomes possible to procure, distribute, store,
and consume the massive volume of fuels required for contemporary military operations. Our emphasis on path dependen-
cies warfighting paradigms, weapons systems, etc. also highlights another dimension that hidescarbon costs.
It is important to reflect on the border contributions of this study. Up to this point, few geographers have taken US mili-
tary energy regimes as a focal point of US imperialism, coupled with the lack of any public reports of carbon accounting.
We address this gap by bringing to the fore the hydrocarbon logistical infrastructure that makes US imperialism possible.
Geopolitical ecology provides a framework to pull together vital work around energy geographies and civilian path depen-
dencies (Bouzarovski & Haarstad, 2018; Huber, 2013; Lyall & Valdivia, 2019; Mulvaney, 2019), critical logistics (Cowen,
2014; Khalili, 2017), and political ecology (Benjaminsen et al., 2017), in particular, how infrastructure, institutions, nature,
and path dependencies intersect for the service of US imperialism. We can now begin to focus on turning down the furnace
by cranking up the heat on the US military's war machine.
Disrupting these sundry path dependencies, and their constituent pieces, turns on a variety of social, political, and eco-
nomic moments and movements. However, the headline summary is that social movements concerned with climate change
must be every bit as vociferous in contesting US military interventionism. Whatever is left of the antiwar movement must
keep environmental impacts at the front of the critique. What this means in practice is that, among other things, using the
potential of climatechangeinduced conflict to argue for swifter adoption of renewables to conduct warfare is fundamen-
tally contradictory and selfdefeating. The logics, logistics, and bureaucratic structures embedded in the overarching modali-
ties of the US war apparatus are inextricably tethered to hydrocarbons.
In this climate emergency, we need something rather more radical than a repairandmaintenance (Graham & Thrift,
2007) approach that amounts to tinkering at the margins of the military's vast furnace. While incremental changes can
indeed amount to radical reconfigurations, there is no shortage of evidence that the climate is on the brink of irreversible
tipping points (Steffen et al., 2018). Once past those tipping points, the impacts of climate change will continue to be more
intense, prolonged, and widespread, giving cover to even more extensive US military interventions. It has been argued else-
where (Bigger & Neimark, 2017) that it is probably good that the military has invested in the development of advanced
biofuels technology and markets. But the entire point of these fuels is that they are dropin”–they can be used in existing
military kit which means that, whenever convenient or cheaper, the infrastructure is already in place to undo whatever
marginal gains have been made in decarbonisation. The only way to cool off the furnace is to turn it off, shuttering vast
sections of the machine. This will have not only the immediate effect of reducing emissions in the hereandnow, but will
also disincentivise the development of new hydrocarbon infrastructure that would be financed (in whatever unrecognised
part) on the presumption of the US military as an alwayswilling buyer and consumer. Opposing US military adventurism
now is a critical strategy for disrupting the further construction of lockedin hydrocarbons for the future.
We would like to thank Mike BernersLee for his input and support on this project. We would also like to thank the three
anonymous reviewers for their exceptional feedback throughout the review process. All errors are our own.
The full qualitative datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available at this time
due to the ongoing and sensitive nature of the data, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
The quantitative data table generated is fully available at: Neimark, B. (2018) Access Table Dataset. Lancaster University.
1 Accessed 9 September 2018.
In November 2018, a major US federal report was released forecasting effects of climate change on the US economy and natural resources in
the 21st century. Despite the report's assessment of debilitating effects resulting from unmitigated climate change, the Trump Administration
downplayed its significance.
Four of the five branches of the US military are part of the DoD, while the US Coast Guard sits under the Department of Homeland Security.
Officially, the Marine Corps is under the administrative jurisdiction of the US Navy.
As of this writing (February 2019), the Trump Administration has vowed to withdraw US soldiers from Syria, and more than half of US troop
presence in Afghanistan as it brokers a peace deal with the Taliban. Trump's withdrawal plans were met with resistance by the Pentagon,
Democrats, and Republicans, including a formal rebuke of troop withdrawal by the US Senate. Whether or not the USA completely withdraws
from Syria and Afghanistan, US military and special operations still operate in dirty wars across Africa, and naval operations continue to
expand in the South Pacific to counterbalancea growing Chinese presence.
To avoid confusion, we will spell out Defense Logistics Agency, while only referring to the Defense Logistics Agency Energy subagency
by its acronym, DLAE.
Through our extensive literature search on carbon footprint data for the US military, we noticed patterns around how other studies were com-
piling US military fuel purchasing data (Liska & Perrin, 2010). During this time, we paid closer attention to the Defense Logistics Agency,
specifically the DLAE. We filed two separate FOIA requests. The first request was for data relating to all US military fuel purchases broken
up by branch. The second request was for refined data on fuel type and regional location of purchases, distribution, and consumption. The
FOIA process was unexpectedly quick and the DLAE returned with data in.xls format displaying all fuel in gallons as we requested. For an
account on how we obtained data from the DLAE, and the politics of FOIA requests more generally, see Belcher and Martin (2019).
We follow Urry definition of path dependency illustrating that institutional decisionmaking emanates from contingent events to general pro-
cesses, from small causes to large system effects, from historically or geographically remote locations to the general …” and therefore systems
develop irreversibly through a lockinbut with only certain small causes being necessary to prompt their initiation…” (Urry, 2004, p. 32).
An important turning point occurred in 2004 when US troops confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over inadequate armour for
Humvees, as soldiers encountered roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for the first time in Iraq.
At the time of writing, it has been reported that the DLA could not account for $800 m (£572 m) in an auditing of its military construction
projects and computer systems. According to the BBC (2018), Of the unaccounted money, $465 m was found to be used for construction pro-
jects for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, [and] failed to produce documentation for $100 m of computer systems.
Like other institutional purchasing programmes, it is subject to graft, waste, and inefficiencies. While the DLA is undoubtedly adept at acquir-
ing and distributing massive volumes of fuel and materiel, it is also the agency most culpable for astonishing levels of wastefulness. This is
perhaps unsurprising given the military's soaring budget and the extensiveness of its supply chains, yet military leaders have been quick to dis-
avow numerous reports of waste on a grand scale. For example, a 2016 internal investigation that found logistics practices to be the primary
area where $25 billion could be saved per year was almost immediately removed from the Department of Defense website (Whitworth &
Woodward, 2016).
The potential warming caused by any molecule of greenhouse gases indexed to the potential warming caused by a molecule of CO
. See
MacKenzie (2009).
A standard unit for measuring carbon footprints, carbondioxide equivalent (or CO
e) demonstrates the impact of each greenhouse gas in rela-
tion to the total of CO
that would have an equivalent effect on climate change.
On Scope 3 emissions, see
Oliver Belcher
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How to cite this article: Belcher O, Bigger P, Neimark B, Kennelly C. Hidden carbon costs of the everywhere
war: Logistics, geopolitical ecology, and the carbon bootprint of the US military. Trans Inst Br Geogr. 2019;00:1
... On the one hand, there is great work being done in the environmental justice, social geography, and sociology of development fields that has examined the impact that militaries and militarization have had on the environment (e.g. Alvarez et al., 2022;Belcher et al., 2020;Hooks & Smith, 2004;Jorgenson et al., 2012). ...
... This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 257 million passenger cars-more than double the number of cars on the road in the United States. Others have estimated that the US military purchases upwards of 250,000 barrels of oil every day-with, in 2017, the Air Force spending $4.9 billion, the Navy $2.8 billion, the Army $947 million, and the Marines $36 million on fuel (Belcher et al., 2020). Moreover, the US military has tended to overemphasize high tech weapons systems (Lachmann, 2020, chap. ...
... The task of mitigating the US military's contributions to environmental degradation is a daunting one. Indeed, experts indicate that a reduction in the size of the military is the most effective strategy for achieving mitigation (Belcher et al., 2020). Noting how military aviation accounts for 70% of the Pentagon's fuel use, Heidi Peltier argues that "The only way to reduce [fuel use] is to reduce how often jets are flying" while also shrinking the network of bases that require large amounts of fuel, supplies, and manpower to maintain: "the military cannot maintain its globe spanning presence and become carbon neutral at the same" (quoted in de la Garza, 2022). ...
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Studies estimate that the US military it is a bigger polluter than 140 individual countries, having emitted hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases in the twenty-first century. Despite this, the military is also one of the organizations most affected by climate change, given its global infrastructural reach, and one that is positioning itself to grapple with the social and political upheavals resulting from the climate crisis. Thus, paradoxically, despite its role as a major driver of ecological degradation, the military is one of the few influential institutions in the US that has demonstrated a willingness to grapple with the effects of climate change. In this paper we explore these two sides of the relationship between the military and climate change. Combining perspectives from the military and environmental sociology literature, we review the military's role as a polluter as well as a stakeholder. We examine the military's attempts to reconcile those two approaches through the adoption of a philosophy of "winners and losers" of climate change, highlighting the limits and possibilities of this approach. To make sense of the military's response, we review the conflicting institutional logics guiding the Pentagon's efforts. We conclude by suggesting that policymakers resolve these tensions through a strategic retreat from its globe-spanning presence.
... The defence sector is responsible for exceptionally high levels of GHGs, pollution and use of non-renewable resources (Bigger and Neimark 2017, Crawford 2019, Belcher et al. 2020, Parkinson 2020a. Analysis indicates that the world's militaries combined, and the industries that provide their equipment, contribute 6% to global GHG emissions (SGR 2021a(SGR , 2021b. ...
... They are also high consumers of military equipment and very active operationally, with the US currently first and the UK fifth in terms of national military spending compared to other nations globally (SIPRI 2021). The US military alone emits more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than that of most nation states (Belcher et al. 2020) and is the single largest institutional consumer of hydrocarbons globally (Bigger and Neimark 2017). With regard to the UK, calculations of GHG emissions by sector indicate that the military-industrial sector has larger direct emissions than nine other sectors, including plastics; vehicles; glass and ceramics; and water and waste management (Parkinson 2020a). ...
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This paper highlights the perspectives of defence workers regarding a Just Transition of their industry, one of the most environmentally harmful sectors in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, pollution and use of non-renewable resources. It is based on (i) interviews with defence sector workers in the United States and the United Kingdom (n58); and (ii) focus groups with key representatives of national and international labour unions, defence companies and relevant NGOs (n18). Some of these defence workers and their trade union representatives envisioned a transformational path towards sustainability, including converting the defence sector to more socially useful production. Drawing on Gramsci, we define these as ‘counter-hegemonic views’, since they challenge the hegemonic ‘growth coalition’ and ‘treadmill of destruction’ paradigms. Such views support and echo more radical interpretations of Just Transition, emphasising the necessity of a structural transformation of society to achieve a fair and effective transition to sustainability.
... COVID-19 has already generated a negative impact on the mental health of the population (4-6), more specifically as depression (7)(8)(9), anxiety (10,11) and stress (12)(13)(14) so any situation can worsen the mental health of the population. Just talking about a world war reminds us that there are weapons of mass destruction that are so powerful that they could leave their mark on the environment (15)(16)(17), soil (18)(19)(20), air and others for many centuries or even millennia (21). Similarly, during the last century the world experienced the Second World War when Hitler ordered the Nazi invasion of Poland (22). ...
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Sustainability may be at risk in a population that has altered health, according to Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3): Health and well-being. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine could jeopardize SDG 3, specifically the mental health of the population. The present study sought to determine the association between severe anxiety, depression and stress in population of 13 Latin American countries according to fear about the war conflict. It was a cross-sectional, analytical and multicenter study. Anxiety, depression and stress were measured with the DASS-21 test (Cronbach’s Alpha: 0.97) and fear due to an armed crisis with a questionnaire already validated in Latin America (Cronbach’s Alpha: 0.92), which was also adjusted for sex, age, education level and country of residence. Descriptive and analytical statistics were obtained. Of the 2,626 respondents, the main fear was that weapons of mass destruction would be used. In the multivariate models, strong associations were found between fear of a possible world-scale armed conflict and having severe or very severe levels of anxiety (aPR: 1.97; 95% CI: 1.64–2.36; value of p <0.001), depression (aPR: 1.91; 95% CI: 1.54–2.36; value of p <0.001) or stress (aPR: 2.05; 95% CI: 1.63–2.57; value of p <0.001). Sustainability linked to SDG 3, specifically mental health, is affected by this type of significant events, given the possible global war crisis that could trigger major events, even more so if added to the deterioration already experienced by COVID-19 in the Latin American region, insecurity and constant political uncertainty.
... This is particularly problematic in certain authoritarian states and institutions, as well as sites targeted by extractive industries (e.g. Belcher et al. 2020;Curley 2018;Koch 2018a;Marston 2019;McCreary and Milligan 2014;Zhou 2015). In other contexts, however, some political leaders and citizens have drawn upon the ideals of social justice to advocate for 'just transitions', i.e. the reorganization of human activities within particular 'environmental limits' while ensuring that the policies introduced are societally legitimate and fair (Jasanoff 2018;Routledge et al. 2018). ...
Inspired by the case of a jaguar raised as a pet by some paramilitary warlords, this article discusses how armed conflict encompasses more‐than‐human realities, becoming a hybrid experience capable of dislocating the borders between environmental and social processes, predation and warfare, human and nonhuman agency, and subjects and objects. It draws attention to a pervasive form of damage—afterlives—that stays with people in ways that compel us to reconsider wartime and the delivery of justice in places, such as traditional Afro‐Colombian territories, that are palpably made of entangled relationships between the human and nonhuman.
The US military maintains significant control of land and sea territory, both domestically and internationally. Extending vertically, the US military also restricts vast areas of airspace to protect its interests in training, testing, surveillance, and security. In order to convey the multidimensional extent of spatial control maintained by the US Department of Defence, in this paper we critically assess, calculate, and depict the volume of militarised restricted airspaces in the USA. Airspace restrictions vary across days, times, and spatial extent, requiring an analysis and volumetric visualisation that can account for three‐ and four‐dimensional change. Applying this analysis casts the extent and variability of US military spatial control in fuller relief and makes visible new aspects of a vertical geopolitics. The research brings important new insights and methods to bear on little‐examined attributes of US militarisation and engages increasingly relevant questions about militarised airspace and contestable claims on near space.
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Building on cornerstone traditions in historical sociology, as well as work in environmental sociology and political-economic sociology, we theorize and investigate with moderation analysis how and why national militaries shape the effect of economic growth on carbon pollution. Militaries exert a substantial influence on the production and consumption patterns of economies, and the environmental demands required to support their evolving infrastructure. As far-reaching and distinct characteristics of contemporary militarization, we suggest that both the size and capital intensiveness of the world’s militaries enlarge the effect of economic growth on nations’ carbon emissions. In particular, we posit that each increases the extent to which the other amplifies the effect of economic growth on carbon pollution. To test our arguments, we estimate longitudinal models of emissions for 106 nations from 1990 to 2016. Across various model specifications, robustness checks, a range of sensitivity analyses, and counterfactual analysis, the findings consistently support our propositions. Beyond advancing the environment and economic growth literature in sociology, this study makes significant contributions to sociological research on climate change and the climate crisis, and it underscores the importance of considering the military in scholarship across the discipline.
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Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI), is often referred to as a ‘Plan B’ if mitigation strategies to reduce emissions fail and the need to rapidly reduce global temperatures becomes urgent. In theory, SAI would help buy more time to bring carbon and other emissions down while also cooling or keeping the planet below the threshold for dangerous warming, though it is not a solution to the problem of climate change in itself. What little attention it has received in International Relations (IR) is usually focused on the need for governance of the technology and assumes that development and use of the technology will be driven primarily by vulnerability to climate impacts. Through an analysis of common security assumptions and preemptive security framings the article shows that while current assessments of SAI focus on the technology’s environmental impact, broader political and security dynamics, particularly the desire to render climate change more intelligible as a security problem with a solution may have substantial influence on how the technology is used and by whom.
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Energy considerations are core to the missions of armed forces worldwide. The interaction between military energy issues and non-military energy issues is not often explicitly treated in the literature or media, although issues around clean energy have increased awareness of this interaction. The military has also long taken a leadership role on research and development (R&D) and procurement of specific energy technologies. More recently, R&D leadership has moved to the energy efficiency of home-country installations, and the development of renewable energy projects for areas as diverse as mini-grids for installations, to alternative fuels for major weapons systems. In this paper we explore the evolving relationship between energy issues and defense planning, and show how these developments have implications for military tactics and strategy as well as for civilian energy policy. Keywords: Energy technology, Defense policy, Innovation, Military
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In petro-states, the governance of flows of oil and oil money is vital to state legitimacy (e.g., regulations, contracts with companies, social compensation in sites of oil extraction). This article explores how contemporary oil price volatility shapes oil governance and the terms of petro-state legitimacy in Ecuador. In recent years, a technocratic, populist regime, led by President Rafael Correa, promised to return national oil resources to “the people” and inaugurate a “postneoliberal” era of sovereign, oil-driven development. The performance of this promise, through augmented public spending, was contingent on international oil prices. We track the emergence of what we call a speculative petro-state, in which state actors claimed to successfully gamble on volatile markets on behalf of the nation, as an emergent strategy for cultivating popular legitimacy. Such claims took the form of petro-populist discourses and practices. First, the Correa administration characterized new contractual relations with oil companies and capital as evidence of Correa’s leadership in complex oil markets, seeking political legitimacy for the state through perceptions of Correa’s personal capacity to manage market risk. Second, as prices surged, the Correa administration channeled rents into building spectacular public works or “petro-populist landscapes,” as material verification of Correa’s petro-leadership in volatile markets. We track how market risk management became one key organizing factor of populist rule in Ecuador and we analyze how this case illuminates relations between populist politics and economic spheres.
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Scale is an emergent theme in current scientific and policy debates on low‐carbon urban transformations. Yet notions of scale employed in such contexts are typically based on linear and hierarchical ontologies, and miss out on the long‐standing development of more nuanced conceptions of scale within Human Geography. This paper aims to advance a relational understanding of scale in the analysis and evaluation of low‐carbon urban initiatives (LCUIs). We wish to lay the path towards an innately geographical conceptualisation of low‐carbon urban transformations more generally, in which cities are not seen as rigid and passive physical containers for decarbonisation initiatives, but rather as key nodes within vibrant socio‐technical networks operating across multiple material sites. Using a case study of the transnational and translocal REACH (Reduce Energy use And Change Habits) project funded by the European Union as illustration, we argue that low‐carbon urban transformations are immanently constituted of three sets of relational processes across scale, involving (1) politicisation, (2) enrolment and (3) the hybridisation of human and material agencies. This paper aims to advance a relational understanding of scale in the analysis and evaluation of low‐carbon urban initiatives. We wish to lay the path towards an innately geographical conceptualisation of low‐carbon urban transformations more generally, in which cities are not seen as rigid and passive physical containers for decarbonisation initiatives, but rather as key nodes within vibrant socio‐technical networks operating across multiple material sites.
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We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a "Hothouse Earth" pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System-biosphere, climate, and societies-and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.
In this important new primer, Dustin Mulvaney makes a passionate case for the significance of solar power energy and offers a vision for a more sustainable and just solar industry for the future. The solar energy industry has grown immensely over the past several years and now provides up to a fifth of California’s power. But despite its deservedly green reputation, solar development and deployment may have social and environmental consequences, from poor factory labor standards to landscape impacts on wildlife. Using a wide variety of case studies and examples that trace the life cycle of photovoltaics, Mulvaney expertly outlines the state of the solar industry, exploring the ongoing conflicts between ecological concerns and climate mitigation strategies, current trade disputes, and the fate of toxics in solar waste products. This exceptional overview will outline the industry’s current challenges and possible futures for students in environmental studies, energy policy, environmental sociology, and other aligned fields.
Modern power is bureaucratized power, institutionalized formally through governmental and non-governmental structures and informally through unwritten social conventions. This report reviews recent political geographic work on the institutional arrangements that enable and constrain all political practice. Institutions here refer to organizations as well as looser semi-institutionalized patterns in public and private life. The report will first examine the scholarship on formal organizations and it will then review the research on professional fields and popular culture. The conclusion highlights the transnationalization and neoliberalization of institutions as a theme that runs through much of contemporary political geography.