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Will High Energy Prices Affect the War on Terror?

The cost of fighting the war on terror is measured in blood and in treasure -- the number of lives lost, and the number of U.S. dollars it will take to accomplish the mission. And as VOA's George Dwyer reports, the rising cost of petroleum has become a part of the strategic calculation of war.

The U.S. Senate began debate this week in Washington on the largest emergency spending bill in American history - a $106 billion request that will go mostly toward funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Estimates of the total costs of the wars are closing in on $400 billion. One reason why may be seen at a military motor pool in Baghdad, supervised by Lieutenant Colonel Darren Wright. "It is critical to have those assets up and operational at all times so we can put them into the fight."

Today's modern, motorized, mechanized army runs on oil, and as its cost soars, so does the cost of military operations. The Bush administration is on record as promising that nothing will stand in the way of getting American troops the supplies and equipment they need.

But it has become increasingly important to be cost conscious when doing so, says Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. "We have to support the troops in the field but we have to do it in a responsible way."

Reconciling efforts to cut the budget and pay for the war are not easy -- especially when military fuel costs went up 57 percent to more than $7 billion in the last fiscal year. And the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make it harder for ground forces to save fuel.

From 2004 to 2005, fuel use by the Army and Marine Corps increased by more than one-third, to 15.4 million barrels. One reason is that extra armor was added to humvees and other vehicles to make them safer. The military is now trying to develop hybrid engines that are more efficient.

And military bases and facilities have been ordered to cut energy use by two percent per year and pursue alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind. The Air Force also is switching over to more fuel-efficient engines.