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Mabus: Biofuel tech has arrived

by defensetech on October 11, 2012

Despite continued opposition from lawmakers like U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the U.S. Navy will continue its efforts to leverage biofuels technology for its ships and aircraft, service Secretary Ray Mabus says.

Mabus disputes McCain’s contention that the Navy is investing in unproven and costly technology by pursuing a course for biofuels. “The technology is there,” he said Oct. 9 during a luncheon in Arlington, Va., hosted by the National Aeronautic Association.

Research shows that biofuels will be a viable alternative for fossil fuel between 2018 and 2024, according to Mabus. “What we can do is speed that up to make it more competitive,” he says.

The Navy has been picking up plenty of steam with its biofuels efforts. The service has touted the use of biofuels in recent large-scale exercises and it is putting together a so-called “Green Fleet” of ships that use alternative fuels while also developing a “Green Hornet” F-18 with the same concept.

One of the more interesting alternative fuel concepts being pursued by the Navy is the Office of Naval Research’s program to hone the chemistry for producing jet fuel from renewable resources in theater.

The most promising process, the Navy says, would catalytically convert carbon dioxide hydrogen gas directly to liquid hydrocarbon fuel used as JP-5, a process being developed and honed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

NRL has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of carbon dioxide and the production of hydrogen gas from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of those gases to hydrocarbons that can be used to produce jet fuel, the Navy says.

“We don’t have a favorite technology,” Mabus says. The service is simply keen to develop alternatives.

McCain says Mabus should stick to building and operating ships, not developing fuel for them. “You are the Secretary of the Navy, not the Secretary of Energy,” McCain says in a July 27 letter to Mabus.

In that same letter, McCain chastised Mabus for his “decision to buy 450,000 gallons of biofuels at over $26 per gallon for a ‘demonstration’ using operations and maintenance funds provided by Congress” as well as the Navy’s commitment of $170 million to develop a commercial biofuels refinery. Both moves “will result in a real cost to the readiness and safety of our sailors and Marines,” McCain said.

The Navy sees fuel needs as a measure of readiness too. The Navy’s Military Sealift Command, the primary supplier of fuel and oil to the fleet, delivered nearly 600 million gal. of fuel to Navy vessels under way in fiscal 2011, operating 15 fleet replenishment oilers around the globe.

– By Michael Fabey

– This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

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{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay October 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

Is it just me or is McCain being stupid for big oil? This is a great opportunity for us to be more effective in theater without the need to rely on refueling. One less thing for the enemy to blow up or attack.

Also we need our military leaders to be concious of the resources or aircraft, vessels, and vehicles are using, ESPECIALLY in this economy.


Curt October 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

So buying 450,000gal of biofuel at $26 a gal makes sense for the Navy. Thats basically shorting the fleet 2 million gallons because they are budgeted for about $4 gal. Notice his criticism was directed at the use of O&M funds to buy the fuel.

Paying $170 million to help set up a commercial refinery makes sense for the Navy? Not the US government mind you, but the NAVY!. Since we don't have a budget, this is being redirected from other programs. Sorry, better use on NAVY funds.

And the alternate fuel hyped here, not part of the Green Navy BIOfuels program at all. Research and funding started way back in the Bush presidency and probably even before that.

So yes, its just you


Jay October 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

So Kurt,
You need to relax. Lots of caps and exlamation marks going on and it's kinda hard to read. Obviously its not where it needs to be at to be economically efficient. But it's the right direction. It's not liberal at all as some think, it's the future to make things more efficient. So before you go all Mr. Finance on people realize that the future is going to cost more up front, and in the end will be the more economical choice.


Curt October 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Sorry, I capitalized Bio once and Navy twice, didn't realize that would confuse you.

Again, not a problem running an experiment but when you use O&M money, that means you took 2 million gallons from the fleet. That was money otherwise planned for other purposes like flight hours for training, steaming hours, etc.


Chuck October 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

So how is spending more money on biofuels than regular fuel helping the Navy?


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm


So how is spending more money on developing biofuel rather than buying regular fuel helping the Navy?

Jeff October 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Its only $26/gal because you're buying only 450,000 gallons. If diesal weren't an actively produced off the shelf option and you were to produce 450,000 gal it'd cost as much as $26/gal. It is the lack of prior capital investment thats resulted in as high a price. To that end anything other than a pre-established fuel would cost more than a pre-established fuel. The goal is to break dependency and that means you can't buy off the shelf, until markets catch up with independent investment.

The 450,000 gallons was largely regarded as an engineering sample, to prove the viability of functioning different equipment on this alternative fuel. Buying it at $26/gal is because at this phase it isn't about sustainable cost its about testing. Sustainable cost comes as a matter of economy of scale and other technology investments. The end goal of this program is to build systems on to ships so that they can pump seawater and produce this fuel from organic compounds in that sea water. Why invest into something as complex as that system if you don't even know if your ships and planes can even run on it? Now they know and know they can focus on cost.


Curt October 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Need to go back and re-read the article. The Bio fuel is not the same as the seawater conversion fuel.

And your point about regular JP-5 and DFM falls down for the simple reason that they are already in production while best case is that biofuels will cost at least twice as much even under the most rosy projections. If you want an alternative for national defense, why not just make a synthetic fuel plant to convert natural gas to jet fuel. That is technology that exists today, is in large scale commercial production, is much more price competative, and can leverage abundant US natural gas supplies.


SJE October 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Good point: natural gas conversion to liquid fuel would remove the absolute requirement on oil.

However, if you can make fuel from seawateror biological biological sources (anything you can get locally) onboard ship or in theater for the army, you remove the requirement for long and vulnerable supply chains. This is a huge advantage in combat. It allows our machines to "live off the land"

This is same principle supporting a lot of "green" energy projects. By diversifying sources the system is less vulnerable to outages due to weather, war, supply shortages (or Chinese hacking). When the power went out in my house last winter, at least I had a supply of wood and fireplace to keep warm. My mother has a solar cell and it supplies enough power to run her house during the day, which saved food from spoiling when the power went out.

nraddin November 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm

the cost of biofuel is dropping fast and it will be easily produced domestically. While it might not be cheap now it would be silly to not start investing in it. In 20 years when oil is harder to find and biofuel has become 25% the current price we will be a world leader, or we can ignore it now and we behind then.


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 11:52 am

I think the Navy would've been better served by paying the DOE rather than bootstrapping it and duplicating a capability already in play elsewhere in government or private sector.


SJE October 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Agreed. The private sector has far more expertise.


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Not just the private sector, but academia (which produces the academic research laboratories for all the theory-building and high-risk innovation) and government labs.

Hell, just throw out an X-Prize and see who bites.


SJE October 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm

The private sector has expertise in making things scalable in a way that academia cannot touch. There is a lot of trade secret expertize that is kept in house.

Chris October 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The Navy is working with the private sector and various other labs to get this done. But commiting to buy the fuel for this test alone they helped several bio-fuel companies ramp up production to further reduce costs. The Navy is just one player here in this whole effort.


femtobeam October 12, 2012 at 4:26 am

The DOE has been focused for most of it's history on Nuclear Energy. Biofuels from algae systems which are automated, light weight, efficient and closed loop… using artificial lighting systems is key to self sufficient Naval operations.

The problem is the funding for the private sector small businesses to help them escape from both "big oil" hegemony and anti-competitive practices and World Market "dumping" by China, OPEC, and the oil refineries in order to prevent the emergence of these sources of energy. Only the Navy and other branches of DoD have what it takes to foster this uniquely home grown industry. Protecting inventors should be a priority now.

The Navy should be pleased that Sec. Mabus has ignored the political circus of politicians trying to legislate technology, which they do nlt understand, and move forward to insure a stealthy and independent Naval force.


JCitizen October 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Indeed! One place I see this working very well is in the new Stirling AIP systems used, for example, on Gotland class submarines. With the ability to process the exhaust from the diesel into another form of bio fuel which could then be recovered by fueling methanol fuel cells; the propulsion system could be made so efficient that it would soon rival nuclear submarines in underwater operating sessions.

McCain should quit criticizing, and look at how the Germans were able to extend World War II by making synthetic fuel, when their oil supplies became restricted. Only a war chief has the gumption to cover all his logistic probabilities, and assure there is a source of fuel for at least emergency use. Congress needs to think more strategically, and we need to get off oil anyway, as the dependency is becoming a dangerous national security issue!!!


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Only the Navy/DoD has what it takes to develop biofuels? You must be kidding, right? There is a massive global commercial shipping industry that is a much bigger market driver.

The only case for the Navy/DoD to lead the way and assume the technology development costs and risks is that it is a single deep pocket driven by a central ecomonic planning model, currently controlled by "green energy" enthusiasts. The problem is that the Navy's mission is to field a fleet to fight and win the nation's wars, not to develop new energy sources.


Peter October 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

It is just you. Those of us, who have spent a lifetime in the energy industry and actually know and understand "the technology" that Mabus is talking about, look at this scam in amazement. This technology will not produce biofuels at a cost anywhere near fossil fuels for a long, long time to come – and most likely never.

The Navy should focus on protecting our county.


Citizen October 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

I am Navy(retired) with 15 years experience as a comptroller. What Senator McCain (Captain, USN (retired) is saying is that the millions of dollars spent on OBAMA- Forced Energy programs are taking funds away from the Operation & Maintenance funds that are ALWAYS insufficient for daily operations. Like his one-term friend, Carter, OBAMA has too many wild-eyed goofy plans that do not add to the effect- ivenese of operations but divert funds from required missions. SECNAV has no guts to tell SECDEF/POTUS they are both wrong!!


wzrd1 October 27, 2012 at 12:36 am

He has to take care of his campaign contributors.


Chris October 11, 2012 at 9:13 am

This whole debate when it happened I think was becuase some Senators and Congressmen saw the military's efforts at reducing energy and fuel consumption as being the all dreaded "going green". Too bad these efforts are being lumped in with being Liberal as well. They saw the Nay's efforts as well as being an end run around their wishes as an affront. They need to calm down and let the DOD do what's best for themselves. McCain isn't stupid – he knows readiness and logistics are a huge factor in winning wars but he was letting his hate of "green" get the better of him. Once again the military is going to give the U.S. a huge piece of innovation that will help justify all the money we spend on the DOD.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I thought deterring, fighting, and winning the nation's wars is what justified all the money we spend on DoD.


Citizen October 18, 2012 at 9:25 am

I wonder if there were not additional cost incurred to permit the use of these fuels in engines and other components that were not originally built to accept these fuels?


joshdennis1 October 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

Well technically it isn't the navy's job and they are using funds differently than what they were allocated for. With that said if the government wont give the Dept of Energy the money to do it somebody else has to do it. Either way it needs to be done


James October 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

I would like to believe that biofuel use is a good idea but the cost is quite prohibitive. Gas at approx $4/gal vs biofuel at $26+ per gal. There would have to be a significant development in the production process of biofuel (re cost) for this to be a viable option.


Captain Obvious October 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

No shit.


Earl October 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

You know what leads to development? Expensive research, like the Navy is doing.


guest October 13, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Gas isnt going to stay at 3 dollars a gallon. bio-fuel is a better long term investment


Stan October 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

It’s worth the premium if it gets us the hell out of Middle East. Let Chinese deal with them.


Riceball October 11, 2012 at 11:45 am

Except that we don't get most of our oil from the Middle East, that's an age old myth that, for some reason, refuses to die. We get our oil from a wide range of places including South America, Europe, however, gets most of its oil from the ME so even if we get absolutely no oil from the ME we'd likely still be involved there in order to help our European friends. The other thing is that there's this little organization called OPEC that controls the drilling and production of oil in the ME and they effectively control the price of oil world wide, so as long as they have oil and OPEC they're going to affect the price of oil regardless of our involvement. So, so long as OPEC is relevant we'll need to be involved in the ME if only to try to keep world oil prices stable.


cs4 October 12, 2012 at 6:07 am

How do know the Chinese are not doing R&D on alternative fuels?


larrie October 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

Solyndra, anyone?


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

Hmm, I recall one of the legs that was kicked out under the IJN was loss of fuel supplies from America (pre-war) and the Dutch East Indies.

Going after your opponents tankers and tank farms is going to be one of the opening salvoes of WW3. Though I'm not sure how the US is supposed to respond when BMs start coming down targeting oil refineries on the west coast and fuel storage at Pearl and elsewhere in the Pacific. You would think that BMs heading to the west coast to hit California and Washington refineries could easily be nuclear, and would immediately escalate the war to a nuclear exchange.

In any case, submarine warfare in the Pacific could make fuel resupply interesting. Lose a few tankers, and you realize the South Koreans and the Chinese are building them like hotcakes, and not America. I guess if it weren't for the Jones Act, we would have no civilian shipbuilding left!


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Interesting, but irrelevant to Larrie's point.

Why should the Navy underwrite the costs to develop an alternative energy industry when it cannot afford to build and sustain the ships it needs to execute its warfighting missions?

If there is a viable business mode for biofuels, the commercial market drivers will by far dwarf the Navy/DoD market. Let DoE, academia, and private businesses assume the costs and risks, since it will be private businesses who ultimately profit.

Remember, SECNAV Mabus' boss has a terrible track record when it comes to Green Energy investments. He doesn't just pick the winners and losers…he picks the LOSERS.


Vaporhead October 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Sorry, but the private sector should experiment with this. We need to stop wasting tax dollars on it until the price of this fuel is comparable with big oil.


JE McKellar October 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Exactly, the private sector needs to invest millions of dollars to create a product that will bring down the cost of fuel and reduce their profit margins. While they're at it, they should develop GMC crops that don't require all those costly pesticides, and some low-cost alternatives to branded prescription drugs.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

JE, your post demonstrates you don't understand the first thing about economics. Reducing COSTS does not reduce profits. There's a difference between price and cost. Prices are set by the marketplace through the law of supply and demand. If biofuels are not more efficient (less costly) in a market sense — i.e., the entire supply chain does not result in delivering more watts out for fewer dollars in — then they will never be profitable for anyone.


Lance October 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

BioFuel for ships good planes not so much… not reliable now. Overall nice idea but for Carriers and Id say even some subs and Cruisers a nuke generator for a engine would be optimal. For smaller destroyers and amphibious ships bio fuel would be nice.

By the way John McCain is bought by BIG OIL so he opposes ay new fuel research.


Jon Deere October 12, 2012 at 3:48 am

Er… Lance? Are you there?

The experiments have demonstrated seawater is a viable source of hydrocarbons that can be used for jet fuel.


combat seabee October 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I for one, would not want to be a fighter pilot up there in a dog fight with a corn fuel that hasn't had years of performance studies done!! It's my butt if it doesn't perform up to MY expectations, NOT the desk drivers, and pencil pushers!!!!


Guest November 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm

All modern US Cruisers & Destroyers have gas-turban engines so they use the same fuel that jets do.


RCDC October 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Probably they can do more research on how to lower the cost from $26/per gallon to $1 per gallon. It's sea water , shouldn't it be free or cheap?


Curt October 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

re-read, you are mixing apples and oranges. Bio-Fuel $26/gal. Seawater to JP-5 fuel in R&D.


RCDC October 11, 2012 at 11:25 pm

That is what I mean.the Naval Research Laboratory has come to the conclusion that it should be possible to extract Carbon Dioxide and Hydrocarbons from seawater and then recombine them into a jet fuel similar to JP-5 while on the go. JP-5 is a kerosene based jet fuel which the Navy uses in pretty much everything. Small boats, helicopters, fighters, LCACs and so on.

Producing the fuel at sea means no more at-sea refueling from USNS Oilers. It also means more active time in a combat zone. That is, if they can get it to work as cheaply as they think ($3 – $6 per gallon and not $26 per gallon).


Sean October 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

The Navy is currently trying desperately to hang on to any semblance of the former glory they used to project. The coming decades shall see great downtrends in terms of power projection for any nation. Producing liquid fuels from other sources just requires more energy. You aren't producing energy, you are just converting it from one form to another, which takes lots of energy to get there. We live in an era of unarticulated hedonism.


f1b0nacc1 October 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I don't disagree that you aren't producing energy when you synthesize fuel, but that really isn't the point. If you have large amounts of 'free' electricity available (i.e. a reactor on a ship, for instance), then the fact that synthesizing fuel is a net energy loss is quite irrelevant, as the lost energy isn't being used in the first place.


Citizen October 18, 2012 at 9:38 am

I agree with your comments – well, most of them….if OBAMA is re-elected, there will be very little, if any, force projection!! There will always be a need to "stand" our ground in the world. China is already using its new Navy to intimidate the countries in the South China Sea. You are correct in that the high cost of the fuel also includes the high cost of making that fuel!! Cost of new fuel plus cost of current fuel to make new fuel = waste of fuel!!!


Beledari October 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Question. making fuel from food is all well and good. But what happens when that supply is shortened by a drought or some other disaster?

Currently 1/5 of our corn is decreed by law to go to biofuels. However the current drought and shortages around the world of corn and other such food stocks has lead to already high food prices, This has driven up the price of food and made it more expensive to raise livestock and horses.

Of course we have enough fuel under the US to fuel the nation for hundreds and hundreds of years but thats not "green".

biofuels are Bullshit unless they can be made cheaper without billions in subsidies.


JE McKellar October 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Yes, making fuel from food crops is kinda dumb, but they are other, hardier, crops that can be used instead, like hemp. The US Navy began with American-grown hemp supplying its rigging, there's no reason we shouldn't go back to having the US Navy powered by US agriculture.


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm

The other alternative is cellulosic ethanol derived from plant matter waste, eg corn husks, chaff, grass clippings…but not sure how it helps the Navy at sea.

Bring back nuclear power!


ben October 16, 2012 at 11:46 am

America produces 12x more food than we consume, and that is before accounting for all the potential farm land which is being used for low density housing (i.e. anywhere you see a green grass lawn is somewhere food crops could be growing.)

America lost a full 40% of our grain production this summer due to the timing of the drought, and domestic food prices have barely budged.

Furthermore, a huge chunk of that massive surplus is bought up by the US gov, (via some long established pork barrel legislation), and then resold for pennies on 1the dollar overseas.
In fact the international market has become so flooded with American grain that several country's economies have completely collapsed due to all of their farmers being put out of work.

As far as I can tell, the only people losing out if the US gov turns that subsidized corn into diesel/jet fuel are Somalian warlords.

Quite frankly I'm having a hard time seeing the downside here.


combat seabee October 16, 2012 at 6:47 pm

OOOOH Rahhhhhhhhh. Tell the truth as a P.C. pentagon is afraid to do!! We have idiots running the boots on the ground, afraid of some black fake in the white house. That is the real problem!!
oblowhole is no friend of the military!! Hey troopers, remember when the budget wasn't going to be passed and oblowhole said, "I don't know if the troops will get paid!" Only ONE PERSON, Michelle Bachman came out, as was her duty as a Congresswoman and said, "I will give my pay to the troops!" Did oblowhole say the same? NO!!!!! He is not your friend American Service Members.
I started my carreer in the yr. 1971 in Nam, I got out out in 95, I know of what I speak.


Beledari October 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I think what McCain and others oppose is the Bio fuels. Not the idea od making fuel with sea water.

Another thing about biofuels. They eat up the engines and produce less power.


scooter October 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

For one this is a no brainer. Diversification is not only common sense but key to success. You never put all your eggs in one basket. It seems to me the oil companies have the Republicans in there wallet at the expense of national security. There actually trying to mute diversification of promising energy tech that can have great benefits to the military. Its sad when large corp use there influence In politics have to disrupt promising tech. I question McCain’s thought process its not logical its not even debatable. And to disrespect Mabus by telling him you have no experience in energy and should not make that decision is just stupid. What experience do you have as politician to make that assertion. Your a politician.


Nathan October 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm

The seawater alternative supposedly costs $4/gal, look it up. The biofuel they used as a demonstration was $26/gal, which was an overinflated cost owing to the fact there was no infrastructure already present to supply it (hence the reason for creating their own biofuel plant).

Seawater fuel at $4/gal is a gamechanger. The cost comparison favours this option exponentially when you take into account the transport, shipbuilding and time it takes to currently supply the fleets. The civilian application when the technology transfers from the military sector is something you can't put a price on.


DMatt October 12, 2012 at 3:38 am

Plenty of raw material out there when the research is completed.


tmb2 October 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Lance, all of our carriers and subs are already nuclear. The cruisers and destroyers are the ones experimenting with this fuel.


Belesari October 11, 2012 at 11:57 pm

WTF how am i listed as Beledari???


Jon Deere October 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

I find this discussion on the merits and costs of bio-fuel amusing. The oil and petro-chemical industry was heavily subsidized by Government in its developmental phase. Taxpayer money built the infrastructure for the oil industry. The same is true of nuclear energy. The taxpayer paid for it before it became profitable.

The fact is, it's remarkable ANYONE could seriously oppose the use of seawater for jet fuel if it increases tactical capability and reduces vulnerability of our supply chain. Similarly, diversifying our energy reliance is a good thing, the infrastructure for renewable energy sources should be put in place without hesitation. When it comes to national security, ideology should be put to one side.

If we simply rename "green energy" as "meat eating, gun totting, real man energy" I'm sure it would get far more support.


blight_ October 12, 2012 at 8:53 am

"MAN ENERGY, because real men make their own power at home"

Ruah, ruah, ruah!


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

If we simply let the Navy stick to it's warfighting mission and let the DoE and the private sector go about investing in a new energy infrastructure, it would get a whole lot more support.


hefe October 12, 2012 at 10:13 am

I think the idea makes good strategic sense. If there is another large scale war in the middle east, what will the Navy do? Say "Please give us oil while we bomb you?" The fact is our army and navy always do better when they have options. Go Green!


Roland October 14, 2012 at 5:44 am

Now let's commercialize it and have everybody to use it and invest on it at an affordable price competitive to the price of oil, on cars, machines, to produce electricity, run engines, etc.


Roland October 14, 2012 at 6:34 am

Say $0.50 to $ 1.0 per galoon.


Seth October 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm

The fuck is wrong with McCain!? We built our CVN's with reactors to cut down on fuel cost and make the deploy/refit ratio much more favorable. Even the slimmest possibility of using seawater as a fuel source should be pursued. If a CVN has the capability to top off her bunkers with seawater, rather than JP-5, the mission capable reach is helped in every capacity. In addition, removing a fuel tanker from the bubble means one less hull the Aegis teams have to worry about defending, and these people have the gall to say new fuel types will hurt our level of readiness? WTF.


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Realistically, the CO2 fuel generators may not produce enough for the ships of the fleet, and perhaps just the air wing.


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I wonder how much the Navy invested in fuel in the early days of the petroleum age, when people still had coal powered ships. It wasn't that long ago, mind you.

During WW1 the navy had a mix of coal and oil. The United States had plenty of both, and it chose the new technology versus coal. It's always tempting to stick to what you have (coal) and not pay for the R&D and endure the development hiccups of a new fuel input.

If Canada cuts us off our fuel habit, then we really have nothing except our own shale and whatever hydraulic fracturing can recover. If it's part of a world war, then any fuel supplies we have will be divided between the army, navy and the air force.

I think Germany in '44/'45 (post-Romania) is illustrative of what happens to a nation with powerful tanks but no fuel to transport them.


combat seabee October 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm

All you "seawater proponents", get in a fighter and go up there in an unproven fuel, I dare you!!


Jon Deere October 17, 2012 at 2:53 am

It is proven. That is the point.


aabh October 16, 2012 at 9:43 pm

$170 million … thats like two three F-18E/F.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm

You're saying the Navy should adopt the DoE's mission because DoE is underfunded (in YOUR personal opinion) by the elected representatives in Congress? That's not how things work in the Republic, Josh…at least not in one that respects the Constitution and the idea of the consent of the governed. Navy bureaucrats don't get to override Congress.

Are you aware that our Navy will soon be smaller than it was before WWI? The Navy's got a problem meeting its basic warfighting mission for the foreseeable future. It should not squander its resources chasing unicorns with the Green Energy lobby or bankrolling speculative Green Energy start-ups.


joshdennis1 October 18, 2012 at 11:47 am

No, It is definitely not the Navy's job to do energy research unless it is through already allocated funds at the Naval Research institute. In General if the navy decided that it wanted to use some general purpose funding to create a renewable fuel that would allow ships to operate with unlimited fuel thereby increasing strategic readiness and operational capability than the should. Having this technology would free up fuel money to purchase ships.What makes THIS scenario wrong is that congress allocated funds to be used for a specific purpose and the Navy cannot and should not overrule that decision.


Karl October 17, 2012 at 7:04 pm

To crack sea water into CO2 and hydrogen takes massive amounts of electric power. This given, with a nuculer plant, we can produce a bio fuel while at sea. Jet fighters can't carry reactors; but this idea really makes sense to develop and use this tecnology for military as well as civilian.


Robert House October 17, 2012 at 11:20 pm

And after that what happens to the sea water and the sea life when the elements from the sea water is removed and returned?

Anyone know……….of course not……..it would be like DDT, effects not known for YEARS!!


Thomas L. Nielsen October 18, 2012 at 2:06 am

Eh? CO2 gets removed from a small amount of seawater – CO2 gets returned to a small amount of seawater. How is that "like DDT"? And the seawater that ships have been purifying for decades for on-board use has killed how many dolphins up until now?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 11:53 am

Dude, those frickin' cars are so dangerous and mechanical. Give me a good horse!


SJE October 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Most new technologies are not initially competive with existing technologies because there is a large infrastructure devoted to the old technology. Sure, some of the new "green" techs are just bogus, but lots are not.


Chris October 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Go ask the Australians what they think. They are going to participate in the next round of research and testing for their Navy.

Australia by the way now has so much scam green energy from wind and solar that electricity prices are falling nationwide. Not so impoverished huh?


tmb2 October 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Jose, the "green" Navy was started by Rumsfeld.


Bill October 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm

…and then the day will come that our classic energy sources will be outrageously expensive and this same retard will cry that oil is too expensive and curse the government for not doing something about it… blah blah blah

Give credit where credit is due, democrats tend to push renewable energy more than republicans tend to do and it is an all-around good idea.


combat seabee October 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Thank you!!! Nuff said!!


wzrd1 October 27, 2012 at 12:37 am

You're right! We should continue to send our hard earned dollars to foreign nations for their oil, rather than develop alternatives.


Curt October 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Our forces in Afghanistan purchase fuel from commercial sources for under $10 a gallon. Just how much do you think biofuels shipped from the US will cost?

Biofuels are not synthetic generation of fuel. Biofuels come from plants, algea, or whatever else, synthetic fuel comes from using electricity and a catalyst to make CO2 and H2 into synthetic kerosene using a Fischer-Tropsch process.


Jean October 11, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Horse? Use your damn legs. Are you a man or a centaur?


gonger December 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Use a car if you like, but don't force the military to replace all their horses until the Jeep is invented.


blight_ October 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Rummy didn't exactly have a ton of friends in R & D-land.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm

R&D does not equal O&M.


tmb2 October 12, 2012 at 12:03 am

For as much as many of us couldn't stand the guy, he had the right idea that energy independence is critical for military operations. The Navy's biofuel program was started at his direction. I'd have to go back and look, but I want to say the coal-as-jet-fuel experiments were on his watch too. I just wish he put even more emphasis on it back when the money was flowing.


Curt October 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

And the synthetic fuel requires huge amounts of electricity (which on a CVN is more or less free but that doesn't apply to anywhere else, unless the Army has a portable reactor around). Its more conversion of nuclear power into liquid fuel.


Curt October 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

Actually, our retail gasoline is cheaper because most every nation taxes it to the extreme. The US refiners basically pay market price. Our Nataual gas is cheap because supply is outstripping demand.


Curt October 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

and the $3-$6 a gallon presupposes that the electrical power used is free. Which is basically true for a CVN since all the sunk costs are already paid, but not true for anyone else.


f1b0nacc1 October 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm

As there are no local sources of fuel in Afghanistan, EVERYTHING is being shipped in, vastly increasing its cost. Care to provide a cite as to where we are gettting fuel provided at $10/gal? Remember that the price had best include shipping costs as well, not simply what it cost to produce it at some refinery in the states.

CO2 and H2 are easily available almost anywhere, electricity can come from virtually any sorce (even solar, as little use as it is in most circumstances, migth be useful here), and voila!…fuel… Nothing is free, and certainly there are some drawbacks to doing this, but the potential benefits (freedom from huge logistical tails, for starters) makes the idea worth pursuing at some level.

Biofuels are unlikely to be terribly useful, and as a rule I am skeptical of them, but the more sophistical synthesis techniques that are being explored certainly deserve some attention….


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

These are O&M funds, not RDT&E funds, Blight.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

Sounds like a good case for RDT&E…not O&M.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

Sorry, this IS about being a tree hugger. It's another Obama Administration Green Energy boondoggle.

This is a terrible use of Navy O&M dollars at a time when the Navy needs less "green" and more "fleet."

If there's a business case for biofuels, the global commercial shipping industry will drive the market, and the emergent biofuels producers will emerge on their own investments. DoE and Navy RDT&E can develop Navy-specific applications.

SECNAV Mabus is shortchanging our warfighting capabilities and subordinating our national security needs to fund a speculative ideological green agenda.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Given the large potential commercial market, there is no reason for the military to be the bill-payer and to incur the associated risks of developing this technology and bringing it to market.

I wonder if Gartner has a "Hype Cycle" for biofuels?


blight_ October 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I meant R & D as in -R and -D, not R&D.

As in Rummy had detractors on both sides of the aisle.



blight_ October 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I get the feeling there were bureaucratic shenanigan-reasons behind moving O&M money-perhaps there is greater flexibility in O&M, or that O&M can be reliably resupplied in supplementary funding bills, as we learned in 2003-2008. Nobody votes against a supplemental, not when we're in Iraq…


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Sorry, Blight…wasn't referring to your comment. Rumsfeld may have started the R&D effort to investigate biofuels and other alternative fuel sources, but there's a huge difference between experimenting with it and mandating fleet adoption of new fuels before they're tested and economical. Rumsfeld is a realist…he'd have buried Mabus' "Great Green Fleet" nonsense with a single Snowflake.


SecretSquid October 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

It's not just a color-of-money issue. Mabus is arguing that biofuels are ready for prime time, i.e., ready for O&M. At $26 a gallon, they clearly are not. They are not likely to be any time soon–not without a huge investment by SOMEONE, preferably not the Navy.


blight_ October 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Is a breakdown of costs available yet? The R&D costs are sunk, but production costs per barrel of biofuel would be useful.


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