The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum welcomed Lt. General Richard Zilmer to speak at the third installment of their energy lecture series. Zilmer joined the Marine Corps after college and spent 36 years in active duty. He commanded in Iraq from 2006-2007. During his time in-country, he wrote an important memo which cited attaining and transporting energy resources as one of the main obstacles to overcome during the war. It also encouraged the development of new ways to provide energy without the risk of loss during transportation. Zilmer served as Commandant of the Department of Man Power and Reserve Affairs, and today is a member of the C.N.A. Military Board.
The C.N.A. or Center for Naval Analysis has its roots in World War II as an anti-submarine warfare think tank. In 2006, the group began studies that were almost entirely energy related and had an impact on national security . The board is comprised of high-ranking, retired military personnel, and its mission is to study the impact of pressing world issues on national security. Zilmer appeared at the energy lecture to discuss the C.N.A’s most recent report; Ensuring America Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce Oil Dependence.
Zilmer uses the “30 mile stretch of danger” in Iraq from Fallujah to Ramadi as a backdrop to lend insight into his personal experience with the happenings associated with casualties from transportation of fuel in the Iraq War. After being told to report what he needed to prevent these unneeded causalities, Zilmer immediately began to think of how to reduce exposure (e.g. trucks being out on roads which were often laced with I.E.D’s). With 1 in 24 convoys resulting in casualty to a soldier, Zilmer faced a daunting task. He quickly found data supporting that today’s military was fuel hungry. While it took approximately 1 gallon of fuel, per day, per solider during WWII to fuel operations. Today it takes 22 gallons per day, per solider.
Zilmer stressed that we are more dependent than ever on petroleum and other distillates today than ever. This dependence requires convoys to maneuver through “threat areas”, or else risk convoys being tied down from the freedom to maneuver. Zilmer helped to formulate ideas on how to reduce the threat by reducing dependence on no-renewable fuel sources. A Joint Universal Needs Statement was penned calling for photovoltaic fuel cells, wind power farms (in regions where they would lend themselves). The Statement was sent to Washington D.C. where it was decided that “off shelf” technology would help -- utilizing renewable energy sources which required less need to transport..
In the C.N.A’s most recent study, completed in October of 2011, the board came to the conclusion that if we do not address the energy demands of the nation we will continue to face a constant and significant National Security Threat. Zilmer pointed out the panic caused by the Oil Embargo of 1973 in which the United States was “held hostage” by OPEC. Zilmer stated that with greater concern was the increase of imported oil. In 1973 we imported roughly 20-30% of our petroleum, while today we import 45-50% of the oil we consume as a Nation.
Zilmer adamantly believes that “business as usual” is not working to address the ever growing need for a change in the energy paradigm. Fundamental changes must be called for to avoid a “looming crisis”. With Russia, China, and India growing rapidly an increase demand will create more competition for price and supply. Zilmer called for firm steps to be taken that would offset that event from ever taking place. Drawing attention to “choke points” such as the Straight of Hormuz, which 20% of all oil exported to the world comes from, Zilmer pointed out how Iran could shut down the straight and cease any oil from passing through if they perceived even the slightest threat. Zilmer believes that if the straight was closed for just 30 days the world economy would be brought to its knees.
Zilmer reiterated that fossil fules are finite resources, and are being used at a rate at which they have never been used before.. Regardless of when people predict they will run out, someday they will be gone. Reducing oil demand through efficiency would create a “shock absorber” which could significantly counteract what Zilmer refers to as “spikes” in oil prices. He called for changes to the highway infrastructure, more fuel economic automobiles, both of which need the nations support to happen. Zilmer pointed out that we are sitting on the threshold of extraordinary alternative fuels right now, including bio-fuels, natural gas, hybrid, and algae ...... all of these are near-term technologies that are out there and need support. He called for first the recognition of the crisis on hand, and then the need for policy binding on future administrations to see it the necessary changes through.
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