The Burden: Fossil Fuel, The Military and National Security


The Burden makes a compelling case about the importance of energy security. Dependence on fossil fuels is not just an environmental concern: it’s a matter of national security. That’s why the military invests in renewable and efficient energy, and why the nation should invest in a clean energy future.
— Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense

About the film:

The Burden tells the story of fossil fuel dependence as our greatest long-term national security threat, and why the military is leading the transition to clean energy. The film is the centerpiece of a strategic media engagement campaign to inspire a movement that strengthens our energy security and harnesses the power of American innovation to make us leaders in the 21st century global clean energy economy.

The Burden presents the determined voices of those within the military and across the political spectrum who advocate for breaking America’s addiction to fossil fuels as essential to improving our national security.

Featuring high-level active duty and retired military leaders, elected officials and others, the film illustrates a tale of energy innovation. Some of our country’s most vital consumer technologies emerged out of military needs, such as the Internet and GPS, and the military is poised to play the same role again with energy.

However, as the film highlights, the fossil fuel industry’s powerful political influence poses major challenges to successfully developing renewable energy alternatives, even within the military. But the resolute advocates featured in The Burden are determined to break the energy impasse in order to improve American security and prosperity.


The Film’s Purpose

The film presents in stark terms the urgent need to accelerate our transition from oil in the name of strengthening national security. While many elected officials privately express concern about our environmental and energy challenges, many refuse to do so publicly for fear of the political consequences. THE BURDEN hopes to change this equation.

Characters include current and former Republican elected officials, active duty and retired military leaders, and veterans-­turned-­entrepreneurs, who believe the most significant extension of their service to country is helping the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels through innovation that drives economic prosperity. The film highlights the work of military, political and business leaders who can inspire others in similar positions of influence to take action – without waiting for Congress.



Gen. James Amos, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command
Hon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy
Hon. Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense
Hon. Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Cdr. Blake McBride, USN, Deputy Chief, Task Force Climate Change
Col. Bob Charette, USMC, Director, Expeditionary Energy Office
Vice Adm. Phil Cullom, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
Capt. Wayne Porter, USN, former strategist, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Hon. Bob Inglis (R-SC), former U.S. Congressman
Mayor Gregory Ballard (R), City of Indianapolis (USMC - Ret.)
Lt. Col. David Preston, U.S. Army
Robin Eckstein, Iraq war veteran
Jon Gensler, West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran
Steven Mentor, Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran


"Highly Recommended. Sorkin’s film breaks new ground. It is a cost-benefit analysis of US military dependency on fossil fuels, a consequence of the general US dependence on these fuels. (A) well-made, very watchable documentary...of interest to anyone interested in national security."
- Educational Media Reviews Online

"The Burden opens doors to meaningful discussions about the military's reliance on fossil fuels and vividly illuminates how oil dependence is increasingly a national security concern.
Stephanie Kline, USMC veteran, Environmental Defense Fund military energy analyst

The Burden makes a compelling case about the importance of energy security. Dependence on fossil fuels is not just an environmental concern: it’s a matter of national security. That’s why the military invests in renewable and efficient energy, and why the nation should invest in a clean energy future.
Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense

"If there’s one image that lingers after viewing The Burden, it’s the ubiquitous shots of troops — from every service in every theater — trudging around with massive fuel hoses over their shoulders. The film underscores where the military finds itself as the new century begins: Liquid petroleum is its lifeblood, but those fuel lines are an oppressive tether.
Wyatt Olson, Stars and Stripes

"Editor's Choice. Highly Recommended. An accurate story about the military's reliance on fossil fuel... Plus, it shows how the military is using energy efficiency and alternative energy."
Science Books and Films (AAAS)


The U.S. military is currently the world's single largest institutional consumer of oil, and the United States alone uses 20% of the total global supply. The film highlights how that heavy reliance upon oil and other fossil fuels poses a variety of national security concerns, including:

• The vulnerability of troops and loss of lives and money resulting from the need to protect and defend fuel convoys in war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, 
• The strategic and economic costs of keeping oil rich areas of the world open,
• How climate change will increase the need for the military to respond to natural disasters, and other emerging global security challenges.


Joshua Busby, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, Strauss Center for International Security and Law
Larry Hott, documentary filmmaker, Florentine Films
Rachel Kleinfeld, Co-founder/CEO, Truman National Security Project
Nicole Lederer, Co-Founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs
Carl Pope, Former Chairman & Executive Director, Sierra Club
Lt. Gen. Norm Seip, USAF (Ret.), Frmr. Commander, 12th Air Force
Gen. Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret.), Fmr. Middle East special envoy; Fmr. Commander, U.S. Central Command

World premiere of  The Burden , in association with the Truman National Security Project, which has been credited with passage of significant clean energy legislation and other policies.

World premiere of The Burden, in association with the Truman National Security Project, which has been credited with passage of significant clean energy legislation and other policies.



Official Selection, Wild and Scenic Film Festival, California
Official Selection, Long Beach International Film Festival, New York
Official Selection, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Official Selection, Macon Film Festival, Georgia
Official Selection, Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis, Indiana
Official Selection, AREDAY, Aspen, Colorado
Official Selection, San Francisco Green Film Festival
Official Selection, Princeton Environmental Film Festival


U.S. Army War College's National Security Seminar
NATO Clean Energy training exercise, Hungary
West Point, and currently in the curriculum
Annapolis Naval Academy
Privately at NATO Headquarters, Belgium
Privately at the Pentagon and White House

In addition to the traditional distribution routes such as film festivals and television, we will reach viewers with the greatest capacity to make a difference: moderate and conservative voters and policymakers, as well as business leaders, specifically in regions where policy changes on these issues have the greatest chances of success.  These areas will include swing states/districts as well as military communities.  

Our partner organizations will help arrange screenings, panel discussions and other events around the film in the most suitable locations.  While many other films have made significant contributions in advancing awareness of our climate and energy challenges, THE BURDEN is unique in its ability to frame the issues in ways that will resonate with all Americans, regardless of political beliefs.



Best of 2016,  Science Books and Films

Winner, Best Documentary Audience Award Long Beach International Film Festival, New York

Winner, Best of Festival, Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Grass Valley, California

Winner, American Clean Skies Foundation Energy Visions Prize

Why Give

We have an oil dependency

that’s not been a burden

we couldn’t tolerate,

and one we were willing

to pay to this point. But those days may be coming

to an end."

-Gen. Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret.)

THE BURDEN is the first documentary of its kind to tell the story of how oil dependence threatens national security, and how the U.S. military is uniquely positioned to bolster a clean energy economy that will strengthen our national, economic, and environmental security.

Military leaders have identified oil dependence as the greatest long-term threat to national security – not just dependence on foreign sources, but on all oil, period. The film presents the serious consequences of maintaining an untenable status quo, while illuminating the economic opportunities offered by a renewable energy economy, all in the name of
saving American lives and money.

Producer/Director/Writer Roger Sorkin believes this is THE story for transforming the debate on climate change and clean energy once and for all. He is an award-winning filmmaker and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project who creates films and political advertising campaigns for non-profit organizations, academic institutions, government and corporate clients. Roger received a master degree in communication from Stanford University with a focus in documentary film. 

Your generous contribution will support screenings around the country and energize our campaign to end America's dependence on oil. 

The film is co­‐produced by the Truman National Security Project, the Center for National Policy serves as fiscal sponsor, and the Truman Project’s Operation Free campaign sponsored the initial publicity. Truman-CNP’s support will also include distribution and advocacy activities.

Please make checks payable to the Center for National Policy, write "The Burden" in the memo line, and send to:

Sarah Bruno, Chief Operations Officer
Truman National Security Project and Center for National Policy
1250 I Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

Contributions via check and wire transfer are tax deductible. However, contributions through the website are not. For more information or to donate via wire transfer, please contact Robin McQueen, Vice President of External Relations, at: (202) 216-9723, ext. 308, or by e-mail at


 Why We Must Lift the Burden

Putting Our Troops in Harm’s Way — The US military uses more oil than any other organization in the world.  Everything from tanks to fighter jets to Humvees to generators use oil. Delivering that oil on the battlefield is a dangerous job.  In Afghanistan, every 1 in 24 fuel convoys ended with a casualty.

Global Supply is Vulnerable — Oil is bought and sold globally, and those trade routes are vulnerable.  Most of the world’s oil travels through two or three major chokepoints, easy targets for terrorists and adversarial nations that border these narrow sea lanes.

It’s Expensive to Secure and Protect Oil — While we may not pay the full cost at the pump, securing and protecting oil is very expensive.  Our military spends approximately $300 billion annually just to protect the oil chokepoints, and hundreds of billions more to help stabilize oil-producing regions around the world. Military experts project that if we were paying the full cost at the pump rather than through the taxpayer money DoD uses for these missions, one gallon of gas would exceed $8.

Funding Our Enemies  Too much of our oil money ends up in the hands of countries that don’t share our values and violent groups working to do us harm.  Oil money has been traced, often through shady front groups, to extremist and terrorist groups. Global demand sets the price on the global market, so no matter where our oil comes from, our high demand keeps more money flowing to our enemies.

Price Shocks Pose a Threat to Military Performance — Volatile oil price spikes force the military to repurpose funds away from training, maintenance, and readiness programs to offset the cost – putting the mission at risk.  This means our sailors steam less, our pilots fly less, and our soldiers and Marines train less. On the battlefield, special forces and other elite units spend disproportionate time on convoy detail and less on counterinsurgency and other critical operations.

Fossil Fuels Exacerbate Natural Disasters — Fossil fuel consumption is linked to an increase in extreme weather events that directly impact our military readiness.  Our military is the best first responder in the world, receiving a foreign disaster relief request every two weeks, which comes at great cost to U.S. taxpayers. Limiting the environmental challenges linked to carbon emissions will save money and place less stress on an already over-extended military.

Clean Energy Jobs for Veterans — A high percentage of veterans are working in the clean energy industry because they saw first hand how our oil dependence militarily and as a nation create excessive costs in lives and money.  Combat veterans understand that clean energy is patriotic, and view their work in this industry as an extension of their service to securing continued American prosperity.

Help Lift the Burden

of America’s Fossil Fuel Dependence

Other organizations that have expressed interest in supporting the film include Environmental Entrepreneurs, Third Way, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Environment Group, and the Pentagon Channel