U.S. Military Consumption

Ryan Schriner schrinrj@uwec.edu
Part of Iraq & Our Energy Future, by students of
Geography 378 (International Environmental Problems & Policy)
at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA, Spring 2003.
Iraq & Our Energy Future Homepage

Oil connections

Costs of war

Consuming resources

Iraq ecosystems

Water crisis

Depleted Uranium

D.U. in Iraq

Gulf War Syndrome

Iraqis' health

Munitions effects

Oil fires/spills

Saddam's violations

Biochemical arms

Biochem use in Iraq

Gulf War chemicals

Economic sanctions

Humanitarian crisis

Cultural sites

Tactical nukes

Nuclear options



Global oil









Fuel cells

Photovoltaic cells


Hydrogen vehicles


Animal waste


A class project by students in
Problems & Policy
(Geography 378, Spring 2003, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
Assistant Professor
of Geography Zoltan Grossman grossmzc@uwec.edu
(715) 836-4471
P.O. Box 4004,
Eau Claire, WI 54702 USA


A report by a Canadian research institute states that the armed forces of the world are the single biggest polluters on the planet. Science for Peace Institute at the University of Toronto found that 10-30 percent of all global environmental degradation can be attributed to military activities. The world's military forces also use up enormous amounts of environmental and human resources while they use huge amounts of energy.

The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of petroleum in the the world. Some figures show that the U.S. military uses enough oil in one year to run all of the U.S. transit systems for the next 14-22 years. In less than one hour a U.S. F-16 fighter jet uses twice as much fuel as the average U.S. auto driver. One-quarter of the world's jet fuel is consumed by the world's military. And worldwide the military consumption of copper, nickel, aluminum and platinum exceeds that of the Free World.

The world's military establishments also use and control vast amounts of land. In the U.S. alone the sum of all land set aside for military use is equivalent in size to the state of Virginia. In 1992, the military in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan controlled an area equivalent to twice the size of Virginia. The Canadian Research Institute report states, "the military destroys large tracts of the land it is supposed to protect.... Recovery from the effects of some military activities may take thousands of years." In Indiana the U.S. Army closed its severely polluted Jefferson Proving Ground because cleanup was considered too dangerous and costly (it included contamination from Depleted Uranium testing).

Military activities have also significantly increased air pollution and ozone depletion. For instance, West Germany's Air Force produced 58% of the air pollution generated by all air traffic in the country. Low-level flights by the military interfere with wildlife migration patterns, and human health. In North America, Native communities are most affected by these flights. A German estimate has stated that 6 to 10% of global air pollution is related to military activities. Furthermore, the world’s militaries are responsible for two-thirds of the ozone depleting CFC-113 released into the air.

The University of Toronto report documents the worldwide devastation caused by toxic and hazardous wastes produced by the military. "Globally, the U.S. and Soviet armed forces produce the greatest amounts of hazardous waste," the report said in 1998. The Pentagon, for example, generated 5 times the toxic waste than the 5 largest U.S. chemical companies combined. In the former USSR, there was so much toxic waste put into Lake Karachay that authorities had to cover up the lake with a layer of concrete. In some of these areas in Eastern Europe has groundwater that is contaminated 30 to 50 times allowable levels, particularly around former Soviet military bases. Ten percent of former East Germany has been polluted or ruined, largley by the Soviet military.

According to a Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org) report, radioactive fallout from nuclear testing may have caused as many as 150,000 premature deaths and 86,000 birth defects worldwide. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War predict that open air testing of nukes will cause 2.4 million cancer deaths. And in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1989, Joshua Handler and William Arkin report, eleven nuclear reactors and at least fifty nuclear warheads sit on ocean floor.

The report also says, "The environmental costs of militarism are compounded by the lost opportunities resulting from the annual diversion of almost $1 trillion in global resources for military purposes." Only eight percent of the world’s military expenditures would be enough to pay for safe sewage treatment programs, and water supplies, the reversal of tropical deforestation and desertification, and population control measures world wide. "If we neglect the military system when discussing the future of our planet," says David Parnas, president of Science for Peace, "we will be ignoring some of the greatest sources of environmental damage and overlooking some of the least disruptive corrective measures available to us."
(Reworked from: Reto Pieth , Nation, 6/8/92, Vol.254 issue 22)

"If we look at the five nuclear powers, we find that the nuclear legacy has not only consumed scarce resources but also massively polluted the land and sea, undermined health, doubled the rate of damaged genes in the human gene pool, and seriously reduced resource productivity over vast stretches of land and sea. Should nuclear weapons be used, life as we know it would cease. Because of its dependence on the civilian economy, the military both lies about the lethal nature of its inventions and tries to create commercial uses for them. Militarism has become a self-destructive, all-encompassing addiction for some of our fellow humans, and the rest of us are passive cooperators with that addiction. Rousing ourselves from that cooperative lethargy is our first priority for disentangling ourselves from the seduction! Money and social approval must be withdrawn from these enterprises, and our focus must change to conserving the planet Earth and securing its viability"

--Rosalie Bertell, director of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health in Toronto www.globaleduc.org


Which Path to a Safer World?

11 Blankets for refugees
11 hand grenades
3-day training for 160 youth in peace building
1 rocket launcher
Enroll 2 children in Head Start
1 cluster bomb
2 home health aides for disabled elderly
1 Hellfire missile
Associate Degree training for 29 RNs
1 Bunker-buster guided bomb
Rent subsidies for 1,000 families
1,000 M-16 Rifles
Annual salary/benefits for 15 RNs
1 minute war on Iraq
Improve, repair, modernize 20 schools
$46 million
1 hour war on Iraq
WIC program nutrition for 200,000 families
$130 million
7 unmanned Predator drones
Eradicate polio worldwide
$275 million
3 tests of missile defense system
Best vaccinations for 10 million children worldwide
$350 million
6 Trident II missiles
Childcare for 68,000 needy children
$413 million
Amphibious Warfare Landing Ship Program
7,000 units of affordable housing
$494 million
1 year military aid to Colombia
Prevent cuts to education programs (FY2003)
$1.1 billion
1 day of war on Iraq
Minimum support to save Amtrak train service
$1.2 billion
2 months U.S. war force in Afghanistan
Annual salary/benefits for 38,000 elementary teachers
$2.1 billion
1 Stealth bomber
Double federal funding for mass transit
$12 billion
1 year cost of war in Afghanistan (2001/2002)
Healthcare coverage for 7 million children
$16 billion
1 year nuclear weapons program
Save 11 million lives worldwide fighting infectious diseases
$38 billion
1 month U.S. current military spending www.warresisters.org/

Partial source list: Center for Defense Information (www.cdi.org); Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org); Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (www.cbpp.org); National Priorities Project (www.natprior.org); World Policy Institute (www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms), Children’s Defense Fund (www.childrensdefense.org); UNICEF (www.unicef.org); New York Times (11/12/01; 3/18/02; 10/13/02; 12/05/02); World Health Organization (www.who.int); National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov); Mennonite Central Committee (www.mcc.org/us/colombia/dollars.html)




Top Ten Military Spenders


Global Military spending

Center for Defense Information www.cdi.org (Rogues = Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea)


Military Spending vs. Environmental Spending

(Graph borrowed from Zoltan Grossman)