How does the cost of switching over to wholly green technology in the US at current prices and at current technology without factoring in possible improvements in efficiency or technology solely in terms of infrastructure and not considering the costs of winding down the fossil fuel industry (an important consideration itself) compare with the total cost of the war in Iraq?

(International-economics is probably not the best tag for this question. If anyone has a better suggestion please edit it in).


To address the concern raised by @ThisIsNoZaku here is a snippet of an interview from DemocracyNow:

Amy Goodman: Sally Holmes can you respond to what Interior Secretary Zinke said about fighting wars for oil?

Sally Holmes: I think he just basically removed the smokescreen about fighting wars for democracy and freedom and admitted they are for oil, and I think it is extremely irresponsible for him to not only say that, but also for him to say that they are not looking for any other alternatives. There are other ways, renewable energy obviously, but we don't need to be sending more Americans, more of our family members and friends across the world to fight for energy when we have the scientific technology here to change that.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think they compare at all, because they are different costs borne by different parties in different ways. $\endgroup$ – ThisIsNoZaku Aug 13 '18 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ThisIsNoZaku: Really? Surely the cost of the Iraq war was borne by USA citizens (which doesn't imply that there are not costs borne by the Iraqi people) in the same way that the cost of the fossil fuel industry is borne by USA citizens. Also, money is a medium of exchange and therefore of comparison. $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '18 at 9:27

A report by Reuters on a study published give years ago said:

The total cost of the war in Iraq was 1.7 trillion dollars with an additional 490 billion dollars to be paid to war veterans in benefits, expenses that could rise to 6 trillion dollars over the next four decades in interest ... according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University ... [the report] is based on actual expenditures from the US treasury and future committment such as medical and disability claims of war veterans.

That is the purely financial costs; they also mention the human costs as:

The war has killed 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the cost of around four times that number ... when security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers are included the total climbs to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000.

Suprisingly they don't mention the number of war veterans that died in the war and nor how many were injured.

They also mention that:

The US gained little from the war whilst Iraq was traumatised by it.

So no mention of oil here. A separate article by Open Democracy said that the total revenue of the oil sold in Iraq was 80 billion dollars in the first six months of this year. Suppose that the US had gone to war for the oil, and suppose that diverted 50%. This would mean a yearly revenue $80 billion. At that rate it would take three decades to pay the costs of the war, excluding the future commitments mentioned above.

This might suggest that the war was not fought on those grounds but as an exercise in punitive collective punishment as recommended by Machivellis Prince.

Had these funds been diverted to investing in green technology for the future, in the same way that the Manhatten project developed nuclear technology, at least one thing could be said - the human costs would have been negligible.

Reuters go on to report:

"Action needed to be taken," said Steven Bucci, the military assistant to former defense secretary Donald Rumsfield ... he agreed that the costs of the war proved to be to be a tiny fraction of the real costs.

"If we had the foresight to see how long it would last and even if it had cost only half the lives we would not have gone in. Just the time alone would have stopped us. Everyone thought it would be short."

So the question condenses down to how much green technology and investment could be bought for between 2-6 trillion dollars. My guess - an enormous amount...

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