21 June 2022
The Australian Defence Force and its future energy requirements
The global energy system is undergoing a rapid and enduring shift with inescapable implications for militaries, including the ADF. Electrification and the use of alternative liquid fuels are occurring at scale across the civilian economies. Despite that, fossil fuels, such as diesel and jet fuel, will be around for a long time to come, given their use in long-lived systems like air warfare destroyers, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 aircraft, M1A2 Abrams tanks, and in capabilities still in the design stage but planned to enter service beginning in the mid-2030s such as the Hunter-class frigates.
Australian supply of these fuels is provided by globally sourced crude oil flowing through a handful of East and Southeast Asian refineries. Supply arrangements for these critical commodities are likely to become more fraught, however. This is already occurring because of the fracturing of global supply chains and the drive for national resilience in many nations, driven by Covid-19, the return of coercive state power and, of course, Putin’s war in Ukraine. Australia’s dependence on imports for liquid-fuel security, at least as it pertains to the ADF, extends well beyond insufficient reserves and refineries.
The government and Defence must recognise this long-term risk to a fundamental input to our military capability and start acting to mitigate it for the future.