Photo credit: jurvetson via Flickr/CC BY
A new study from the RAND Corporation claims that the US military will see no direct benefits in adopting alternative fuels -- but that benefits will "accrue to the nation as a whole", according to Science Daily. The report looked primarily at jet fuel alternatives like algal and ethanol-based fuel -- and determined that funding would be better spent on efficiency measures instead. Bear in mind that this doesn't reflect the viability of alternative energy sources like solar -- but many alternative fuels that have garnered much attention and acclaim in recent years, like algae and seed-based oils.
James Bartis, the lead author of the study, told Science Daily that "To realize the national benefits of alternative fuels, the military needs to reassess where it is placing its emphasis in both fuel testing and technology development. Too much emphasis is focused on seed-derived oils that displace food production, have very limited production potential and may cause greenhouse gas emissions well above those of conventional petroleum fuels."
The study also claims that algal fuels -- still an exciting prospect for many clean techies -- is too far off from feasibility to make it practical for the military's investment.
The report also argues that energy efficiency should be a priority:
Researchers concluded it makes more sense is for the military to direct its efforts toward using energy more efficiently. Providing war fighters with more energy-efficient equipment such as aircraft or combat vehicles improves operational effectiveness, saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Essentially, the study is arguing that such expansive R&D; projects won't really help the military in particular any time soon -- and that the projects are really aimed at advancing fuels for civilian use. That being the case, RAND says, perhaps a new division should be created to oversee such research. The problem with that is such a proposal is that, as you know, the military has a massive budget. The Dept. of Energy, for instance, does not. If such valuable projects were to be stripped from the military budget, they'd likely find no home elsewhere.
More on Alternative Fuels and the Military
Algae-Based Jet Fuel Research Gets $25 Million Boost From DARPA
Rumsfeld Directs DOD To Study Energy Alternatives