Defense Department Largest Fuel Consumer In US
It looks like the 'little guy' isn't the only one suffering at
the gas pump. The US government is paying through the proverbial
The US Air Force and its fleet of nearly 6,000 aircraft use a
whopping seven million gallons of fuel... per day. This single
branch of the military purchases and consumes more than half of all
the fuel used by the entire government. It costs the USAF $600
million for every $10 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil,
according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Aviation fuel is the big culprit. The liquid gold accounts for
more than 80 percent of the USAF total energy bill. Just last year,
the service spent more than $5.8 billion for jet fuel alone.
Compare that to the $2.6 billion it spent in 2003.
A single F-16 inhales $300 worth of fuel per minute when the
afterburners kick in. A B-52 bomber and its eight engines hold
nearly 48,000 gallons of jet fuel -- it takes a cool $100,000 for a
The Defense Department is the largest consumer of petroleum in
the nation, and possibly the world.
"We burn a lot of gas," said Assistant Air Force Secretary Bill
Anderson, who oversees fuel consumption for the service.
It's an acknowledged struggle to keep up with the fuel bill. It
doesn't help the military is top heavy with gas guzzlers like
tanks, helos, ships and fixed-wing aircraft.
"You're getting heavy, sophisticated machinery off the ground.
It's fundamentally very expensive," said aircraft analyst Richard
Aboulafia of the Teal Group. "You just have to deal with it. In
wartime, you don't have the option of restricting flight hours to
There are a few things the service is doing to try and save
fuel. Multiengine aircraft will often use a single engine during
taxi, and simulators are being increasingly utilized to ensure a
pilot's effectiveness isn't impaired. Non-essential equipment is
often left behind on trips, and in place of heavy chains, lighter
nylon straps are used.
Officials are exploring the use of synthetic fuel for use in its
aircraft. Called synfuel, it is a blend of traditional oil-based
fuel and synthetics derived from natural gas or even coal. As ANN reported, a synfuel
test was successfully carried out late last year on a B-52 and more
This is a big reason Air Force officials say they are pushing
for new-generation aircraft, such as the comparatively
Although they, like the rest of us, have been forced to get
creative in ways to trim the fat to pay for fuel, its obscene cost
has not interfered with any combat missions, officials insist.
"We have never stood down or limited the mission," Anderson
said. "We just have to suck it up somewhere else."