Photo: U.S. Navy, Public domain.
Biofuels Probably Have a Brighter Future in Aviation than Ground TransportThe U.S. military is the #1 consumer of oil in the world, and the Navy's ships and planes use a large fraction of the total. For strategic reasons first and environmental reasons second, the Navy has made it a goal to start using more home-grown biofuels to power its vehicles. The latest milestone took place last week when a F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter jet, dubbed the "Green Hornet", flew for 45 minutes using a 50/50 blend of regular jet fuel and camelina-based biofuel.
This is what's powering the F/A-18. Photo: Wikipedia, CC
"The aircraft flew exactly as we expected- no surprises," said Weaver, F/A-18 project officer for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 and pilot for the Earth Day flight test. "The fuel works so well, all I needed to do was just fly the plane."
The flight test's goal was to confirm that the use of biofuels didn't make a difference in the operation of the plane, from sub-sonic to super-sonic speeds. So far everything's working as it should, and the Navy's certification process for biofuels is forging ahead at the Navy Fuels Lab at Patuxent River, and it could take 6-9 more months before it's ready.
The Defense Energy Support Center, which oversees procurement of biofuel for the Navy, recently awarded a $2.7 million contract to Sustainable Oils of Seattle and Bozeman, Mont., for 40,000 gallons of camelina-based fuel. Not exactly cheap for the taxpayer, but it's very likely that if the Navy starts using more biofuel, prices per gallon will go down significantly.
My Editorial 2 Cents
It's great that the Navy is wanting to use biofuels, and even better if they get it right and avoid repeating the corn-ethanol fiasco. If they use non-food crops that don't cause too much land-use issues, they could significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
But the best way to reduce the environmental footprint of the U.S. military would probably be to look at its size; does it really need all those post-WWII military bases in places like Germany and Japan? Does it need to keep all that cold-war hardware in operation? That's political thing, but the question should be raised. The military budget is huge, and money that goes into it isn't going to other things that could make the U.S. - and the world - more secure and stable (for example, R&D; into clean energy and investments in power grid infrastructure are very small compared to military expenses).
Via U.S. Navy