Happy Veterans Day. In honor of the day, let's peek at what the US military is doing on one energy issue: preparing for changes in fuel availability. In this case, the Navy is looking to humble algae as a fuel source.
Did you know that this year, the US Navy successfully completed tests in Norfolk on a 49 foot long riverine command boat (the RCB-X) powered by a 50/50 mix of diesel and algae-derived biodiesel? In the wake of this spring's Joint Operating Environment report noting possible future scarcity of oil, the military is predicting that it may need to have assets that can run on a variety of fuels. This spring's report predicted the possibility that the the world's surplus oil production capacity might be sucked up within two years, resulting in a potential excess demand of nearly 10,000,000 barrels a day within the next five years. In addition to ships, the Navy's interest in adding flexible fuel capacity has also led to biofuels and coal-derived synthetic fuels to power jet engines as well.
Military applications add a national security aspect onto the basic arguments in favor of biofuels as part of a fuel portfolio. While initial algae-derived biofuels delivered to the military were relatively expensive (reportedly $424 per gallon), the price has already fallen significantly as production capacity responds to the increased demand. Will the predictions in the Joint Operating Environment report come true? If so, being able to run on a variety of more cost-effective fuels including biofuels may prove invaluable.
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