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Energy Independence and the Real Cost of Oil

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Northampton, MA – October 14, 2008 – According to a new report from National Priorities Project (NPP), the United States is spending between $97 and $215 billion dollars annually on military action to defend access to oil and natural gas reserves around the globe. The Military Cost of Securing Energy provides a critical analysis of the military cost of defending U.S. energy concerns overseas. The report estimates that the military spends up to 30 percent of its annual budget to secure access to energy resources internationally.

Along with the report, NPP has released corollary fact sheets on energy consumption and renewable alternatives (nationally and by state) and published a web-based quiz to help translate and disseminate these complex findings. These materials contain information about the various options for taking action and moving forward with more sustainable energy planning. The report, facts sheets and quiz can be accessed online here.  

The report is authored by Dr. Anita Dancs, Asst. Professor of Economics at Western New England College, with Suzanne Smith, Research Director at NPP, and Mary Orisich, Research Associate at NPP. They have spent the past several months analyzing – using two different processes – the global pursuit of energy by the federal government and the U.S. military to estimate the amount of money being spent.

“The military budget isn't broken down by mission or region of the world, so it isn't obvious at all how many resources are devoted to securing access to and the transport of energy,” says Dr. Dancs. “Because of this, we developed different sets of assumptions and created two methodologies to answer the question.” Dancs adds that after looking carefully at the numbers, it became clear that even without considering the Iraq war, approximately $100 billion of the Department of Defense budget will be used to secure energy resources in 2009. “We hope that by publishing these preliminary results, we can start a national discussion,” she says. “Not only about how to calculate these numbers more precisely, but about the implications of this spending when the federal government only spends a few billion on renewable energy and conservation.”

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“These are ground-breaking findings, which are particularly relevant in light of what is happening right now with our economic crisis, climate change, and the volatile cost of oil,” says Jo Comerford, Executive Director of NPP. “Clearly, the road to energy independence must take into account the military cost of securing energy. The U.S. military spends billions of tax dollars to secure global fossil fuels, dollars that could be used to develop renewable energy sources that won't ever run out or cause wars and global conflict. This is news for most people. We're hoping this information will have a profound impact on public engagement with the policy-makers of the next administration.” Comerford goes on to say, “the release of this information is also quite timely, considering the fact that AFRICOM, the U.S. military's latest in a series of global commands, 'stood up' on October 1st and was implemented in part because of the profound energy reserves now known to be on the African continent.”

Energy expert and author Michael Klare (who is also a member of NPP's board of directors), says this research shows the clear connection between the U.S. military, national security, and U.S. access to global energy supplies. “One of the main reasons that our troops are deployed around the globe is to secure access to energy resources,” Klare says. “This paper shows that, without a doubt, energy security is tied in with national security and military action. The question that follows then is, is this a sustainable strategy – both in terms of the threat of foreign wars and the inevitable cost of human life, and also in terms of the rapid depletion of resources and concurrent destruction of the environment and changing climate – and if not, what do we need to do to change it?” Klare praised the authors for “their original and probing methodology that illuminates the ties between U.S. dependence on foreign oil and U.S. military policy more thoroughly than ever before.”

These newly released findings fall within the larger context of NPP's Energy Priorities Project. This work has two distinct goals: to gain significant funding increases for renewable energy and conservation measures; and to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and resulting concomitant military strategies aimed at securing access to global energy supplies.

Media can contact the following for comments or interviews:

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Anita Dancs, Asst. Professor (primary author)
Western New England College

Suzanne Smith, Research Director
National Priorities Project

Michael Klare, Five Colleges Professor of Peace and World Security Studies
Hampshire College

Jo Comerford, Executive Director
National Priorities Project

The National Priorities Project (NPP) analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton, MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. For more information, go to


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