Update: Readers are emailing more gems...click on the extended entry at the bottom of the piece to read them.
The Huffington Post routinely allows its authors to write about subjects with which they are completely unfamiliar, largely uninformed, and generally ignorant--take Laurie David and global warming for example--but today's post by Barry Sanders (I wish it was that Barry Sanders) sets a new standard. Sanders's piece is about "the military's addiction to oil," and his point is to illustrate the military's contribution to global warming, but not content merely to opine on something he didn't understand...he had to make his own facts up, too.
But, we do know that President Bush ordered the USS Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan to the Gulf in January 2007 as part of the surge. He also sent a "strike group," led by the nuclear aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower, along with a cruiser, a destroyer, a frigate, a submarine escort, and a supply ship. Already sitting in the Gulf were ten other "Carrier Task Forces" built around the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, and the Abraham Lincoln. Ninety attack planes sit on each carrier's deck, ready at any moment to fly into combat.
The United States has never, ever, had twelve carrier task forces stationed in the Gulf, not this year, not any year.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, familiar to us as the ship on whose deck President Bush declared to the nation, on May 2, 2003,"Mission Accomplished," remains in service, but the military keeps classified all the numbers about its fuel consumption. The USS Lincoln helped deliver the opening salvos and air strikes in Operation Iraqi Freedom. From March 2003 until mid-April of that same year, during its deployment in the Gulf, the Navy launched 16,500 sorties from its deck, and fired 1.6 million pounds of ordnance from its guns.
The USS Abraham Lincoln has no "guns," other than those used in air defense. The 1.6 million pounds of ordnance should refer to bombs dropped in Iraq via aircraft.
Of all the branches, the Air Force uses the most fuel. In 2006, for instance, the Air Force consumed nearly half of the DoD supply, 2.6 billion gallons of jet fuel, the same amount of fuel consumed from December 1941 to August 1945, during World War II. Flying machines, like the Apache helicopter, blow through fuel at an astonishing rate. Powered by two General Electric gas-turbine engines, each rated at 1,890-horse power, the Apache gets about one-half mile to the gallon. Just one pair of Apaches in a single night's raid will consume about 60,000 gallons of jet fuel.
This is getting a little ridiculous...Apaches aren't part of the Air Force, they are Army.
To all that, we must add the 1,000 jets stationed on aircraft-carrier groups in the Gulf, along with 22 stealth bombers and another 700 planes in Saudi Arabia.
One thousand jets stationed on carriers in the Gulf? Wrong. 700 in Saudi Arabia? Wrong. And our whole fleet of B-2 Stealth Bombers stationed in Saudi Arabia? Way, way, way wrong.
Some environmentalists insist that aircraft carriers pollute more than any other piece of armament in the military arsenal. Besides spreading the ocean surface with its own CO2 and residual oil, sea-going vessels create something called "Ship Tracks" that tail off, like vapor trails, in the atmosphere and have the potential for changing the microstructure of marine stratiform clouds.
Only one aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy isn't nuclear powered. So there is no CO2, no "ship tracks," and no potential for changing the microstructure of marine stratiform clouds. And you know what, I don't know much about clouds, but given Sander's wide-ranging ignorance, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he has no idea what he's talking about here either.
One of those studies, completed in March 2000 and funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, says absolutely nothing about the contamination caused by that same jet exhaust when a squadron of F-22s, say, fly sortie after sortie, at fairly low elevations, over a crowded neighborhood in Baghdad.
Yea, an F-22 has never, ever, flown a sortie over Baghdad, let alone at low altitude and in squadron formation.
I suspect there are dozens more blatant errors in this piece, and if readers want to have at it, I'll post responses in updates here. Sanders makes a bunch of over the top claims about the amount of CO2 and other pollutants produced by the United States military, and I expect that someone with even the most cursory knowledge of such things will reveal that Sanders has no idea what he's talking about in that realm either. And keep in mind, this piece is the second in part of a week-long series on the amount of pollution produced by the military and its effect on global warming. If they allow Sanders to post another piece this misinformed, I'll be shocked--Arianna, this is embarrassing.
"The Navy uses an enormous amount of fuel for its nuclear and non-nuclear aircraft carriers. The recently decommissioned USS Independence, at its top speed of 25 knots per hour, consumed 134 barrels of fuel an hour, or close to 5,600 gallons an hour. (The ship boasts 4.1 acres of flight deck and a crew of 2,300.) On its way to the Persian Gulf in 2002, a trip that took fourteen days, the Independence went through two million gallons of fuel. Every four days, the ship took on an additional one million gallons of fuel, half of which went to supply the carrier's jets. "
Michael - thought I would take a crack at this oneâ€¦..USS Independence (CV-62) decommissioned in September 1998 and was clearly nowhere near the Persian Gulf during 2002.
Further, at the time of its decommissioning, Independence was the oldest ship in the Navy at just shy of 40 years of age. As such, its fuel efficiency is hardly an accurate indicator of that of the overall Navy, or even aircraft carriers in particular.
From WWS pal James:
"the Apache gets about one-half mile to the gallon. Just one pair of Apaches in a single night's raid will consume about 60,000 gallons of jet fuel."
Apparently the Apaches cover 15,000 miles in a single raid. That's 7,500 miles out and 7,500 miles back.
From an active duty pilot:
I'm a Navy test pilot stationed out of [redacted by request]. I do developmental flight test and evaluation on the many variants of the F-18 (A-G) and the T-45. Prior to this tour I served in Strike Fighter Squadron [...] stationed out of [...] and did two deployments on USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and one on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). I have flown in country over both Iraq and Afghanistan. I happen to be an avid reader of both the weekly standard articles online and the WWS blog and if I've managed to pick up the hints from my wife correctly, I will be a subscriber as of Christmas this year.
Since you opened the floor to comments, I found I just couldn't resist. I'm certainly not a partisan Republican by any means. I happen to feel that as a member of the military I have no business belonging to a political party. I do vote though, since I think I should at least have a say as to who gets to put my life on the line for this country. In my opinion, a good debate over the serious issues confronting our country is healthy, but it needs to be a debate based in facts and the sum of inaccuracies in this article seem to me to amount to just a chance to bash the military. I've tried to restrict my comments to what I know about: The Navy and airplanes.
As you mentioned in the article, there is only one conventionally powered aircraft carrier left in the inventory, The USS Kitty Hawk home ported in Japan. That said, the Kitty Hawk is scheduled to be replaced by the USS George Washington in Japan in 2008. Although her fate is TBD, the smart money is that the Kitty will be decommissioned shortly thereafter. Mr. Sanders fails to mention that the emissions from a nuclear powered aircraft carrier are effectively zero. The power plant and steam systems are self contained. Yes, the aircraft and equipment to service those aircraft aboard do burn jet fuel, but the author seems to be trying to count those aircraft twice, first as airplanes, and then as part of the ship. Those aircraft are going to emit whatever they do whether they are turning on deck or airborne. Furthermore, a tremendous amount of oil based lubricants are used aboard an aircraft carrier, some of which leaks into the sea. This is a common phenomenon associated with shipping in all its forms and is not associated with just aircraft carriers. Navy ships at sea follow very strict EPA and international regulations regarding the discharge of substances and fluids into the sea.
On the fuel issue, the author seems to go back and forth about what fuel is used where and how. As mentioned above, nuclear aircraft carriers use uranium rods for fuel and have no emissions. Most Navy surface combatants have gas turbine engines (essentially jet engines for ships) and burn jet fuel. Smaller Navy ships typically have diesel engines and the majority of Navy support ships burn oil. On the issue of fuel, Navy aircraft use JP-5 (because of the higher flashpoint) when operating at sea.
"Supersonic aircraft, like the Super Hornet, the F-111 and the F-22 Raptor, create pollution 5.4 times more corrosive to the environment than conventional aircraft." First of all, I'm pretty sure the only nation that flies the F-111 anymore is Australia. By the way, Mr. Sanders also references the F-4 which is no longer operated by the U.S. military either. Secondly, the speed of sound has nothing to do with the emissions of an airplane. It's the airplane engine that is emitting gasses no matter what the regime of flight. If I am in an F-18 in full afterburner at 100 knots the motors on that aircraft are making essentially the same emissions as that aircraft in full afterburner at Mach 1.5. Emissions from an engine are entirely related to power setting and not speed of flight. Military engines are designed for higher performance, and thus higher fuel burn and emissions rates, than conventional engines. You could not throw a high bypass relatively fuel efficient airline engine into a tactical fighter and have the same performance. The missions for which those engines are designed are completely different.