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Oil Free by 2050

by murdoc on February 28, 2007

Hornet-over-oil-wells.jpg

The US military needs oil — about 300,000 barrels a day — to fight.

Lots of oil comes from the same places where the military actually is fighting today, or may be fighting sometime in the not so distant future. (Hello, Iran?)

Oh, the irony!

It should come as no surprise then that the Department of Defense is giving very serious thought to oil independence. The notion is that the nation — and particularly the military — must have assured access to energy, and oil isn’t such a safe bet any more.

Champions of this concept are known to include John Young, DOD’s director for Defense Research and Engineering; and Ron Sega, undersecretary of the Air Force and — on Capitol Hill — New York Republican Representative Steve Israel and Maryland Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett.

There’s been some press about a highly-touted Air Force experiment using a synthentic base fuel (derived from natural gas pumped in from Oklahoma) to power one of the B-52’s eight engines.

But that’s just kid-stuff, really.

It’s very clear that a much broader vision exists within DOD to really go … all .. the … way, and fast.

The vision can be found in this master’s thesis by Air Force Lt Col Michael J. Hornitschek, who originally published the document for the Air University’s Center for Strategy and Technology. It has since been republished in the Air Force Journal of Logistics. It’s a thesis, but it often reads like a very good Popular Science article.

Here’s a quick excerpt that explains the vision:

“A directed-energy based, highly-automated force, capable of generating a majority of its own power in a distributed fashion from local and environmental sources, could theoretically provide that future. The potential efficiency, environmental ubiquity, universality and convertibility from one form to another of this configuration, make strong arguments that the force of 2050 can be powered almost exclusively by electricity and hydrogen.

“Setting aside conventional paradigms allows one to imagine a conceptual 2050 force. All navy ships might employ nuclear-powered direct-electric drives, lightweight nanoengineered hulls, and directed energy armament. All army and marine corps future combat system land vehicles (many of which are unmanned) are designed for modular upgrades with plug-in electric hybrid or fuel-cell power, lightweight carbon nanotube-based armor and directed energy weaponry. Today’s vulnerable tanker fuel trucks are replaced with smaller hybrid or fuel-cell powered trucks carrying stable, solid hydrate-based hydrogen batteries or combat safety-engineered liquid hydrogen containers. Individual soldiers are outfitted with pocket hydrogen fuel cells to power 10–15 onboard electric systems. Virtually all combat fighter aircraft are small, unmanned or single-seat, and powered by liquid or even nano-engineered solid hydrogen-based fuels. Ultra-efficient aircraft designs eliminate the need for tanker aircraft. All imagery (sic), surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms are either space-based or unmanned vehicles, orbiting for weeks at a time exclusively on solar-generated power while peering through weather from above.”

Stephen Trimble

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Foreign.Boy February 28, 2007 at 9:34 am

I hope I’m wrong, but doesn’t this sound a lot like the army’s hope to have armour for the M1A2 that was lighter but as tough so fuel wouldn’t be such an issue?
Mostly hoping on technology that hasn’t been developed or released yet. Ah well, 40 years is a long way away anyways.

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Stephen Trimble February 28, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Forty years isn’t so long a time in the weapons business. It means you’re talking about the next generation of ships, tanks and planes that start appearing after 2020. As the author notes, those electric and hydrogen power are being factored into the plans for many of those designs. It may seem far-fetched today to conceive of an oil-free fleet, but it can happen. Consider when Winston Churchill, as head of the Royal Navy, switched British warships from coal to oil in World War I. That may seem quaint today, but it really was a change of comparable magnitude.

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Stephen Trimble February 28, 2007 at 1:40 pm

In the comment below, by “author” I meant Hornitschek, not myself.

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JB February 28, 2007 at 1:53 pm

What’s with “imagery (sic)” in the quote above? I have trouble taking a military blog seriously if they’re unfamiliar with that word …

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Mark S. February 28, 2007 at 2:30 pm

For JB:
the (sic) could be necessary because the “I” of ISR most often stands for intelligence, not imagery.
cheers,
Mark S.

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Andres February 28, 2007 at 3:08 pm

It is all very well to wish for a non-dependency on oil by 2050, but lets face it, we probably will be just as dependent on oil then as we are now. One of the options we have is batteries, but to develop better ones will take a long time. Li-on batteries are only 3-4 times more powerful than they were 20 years ago, and if you want to power a tank, even if you have lightweight nano-materials for armour, you will need something a lot better. Fuel cells are another choice, but where will you get the hydrogen based fuel for them? Electrolysis, then your back on oil-dependency. Ethanol production from crops and you will see food prices go up outrageously, coz of the amount needed to support the US military alone. Nuclear power is all well for the big stuff, but even then, you make enough big ships with such a powerplant and you are bound to have a few errors, and with nuclear tech, you do NOT want errors.
It will take something directly out of star trek to draw the dependency away from oil to support an establishment as big the US military.

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moonbiter February 28, 2007 at 4:14 pm

This “vision” sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking. Why didn’t he just give the Marines Starship Troopers-style battle suits and personal nuke launchers to as well?
Plus a lot of it doesn’t make sense. Directed-energy armament on Navy ships? What, they aren’t going to be attacking anything over the horizon any more?

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Erick Smith February 28, 2007 at 5:20 pm

By energy weapons, keep in mind this could include rail guns, etc, which could still be fired “over the horizon” and yet rely only on electricity for propulsion.
Also, most “over the horizon” engagements are handled by aircraft or missiles these days, so weapons systems on ships which fire conventional projectiles are mostly defensive and don’t need over the horizon capability. The age of direct bombardment by big guns is long over.

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Macaca February 28, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Notice this “Today’s vulnerable tanker fuel trucks are replaced with smaller hybrid or fuel-cell powered trucks carrying stable, solid hydrate-based hydrogen batteries or combat safety-engineered liquid hydrogen containers. ”
Uhm, the fuel cells look okay, but im not sure about liquid hydrogen tankers. Isnt that high-pressure stuff and very volatile, even worse then ordinary fuel? (eg: virtualy a big red sign that says ‘machine-gun this’)
Nice idea anyway, but 2050? It’s official science-fiction :)

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compton March 1, 2007 at 9:08 am

http://www.weirdasianews.com/2007/02/24/pee-powered-battery/
I can see it already. A camelbak on you back and a tricklepack on you thigh. Unstoppable.

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Beuvih March 1, 2007 at 9:31 am

Wouldn’t it be better to work toward not to have have a Military instead of this ? Should be able to do that before 2050 ?

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AirSix March 1, 2007 at 9:55 am

…by the way, would that be Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland, the congressman/physicist (and EMP monomaniac)? ‘Cause Dan Bartlett, we don’t know who is, nuless it’s the guy who used to work in the White House.

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Stephen Trimble March 1, 2007 at 10:46 am

It’s Roscoe, not Dan. My (embarassing) bad.

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- March 2, 2007 at 3:35 am

Perhaps the develpment and deployment of fusion based technologies, or technologies that access energy directly from the active vacuum will become a reality.

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Brian March 2, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Would it be better to not have a military by 2050? That’s a great idea!!! You go first. Disband your military. Then I’ll disband mine. Trust me.

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Gerard Panza August 3, 2008 at 8:48 pm

The Truth About Crude Oil
First Crude Oil is NOT from Dino the Dinosaur or his brothers. Logically speaking if the earth was covered with a dense primeval forest and there was a Dinosaur living in every five square mile area on the face of the earth, and all this was compressed into a sub surface space for tens of thousands of years, and produced a pool of Crude Oil, it WOULD ONLY FEED the needs of this world for the PAST twenty years, so WHAT FUELED the Industrial Age for the first EIGHTY YEARS???????????????????????????
Think about what is stated above! Science states that oil is the by product of the earths ENGINE as it rotates creating GRAVITY and super heating rock formations, that through this process release oil and this oil flows into cavities within the earth.
Now with this said, what is the reason for the excessive spike in Crude and Natural Gas prices? GREED.
In the 60

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