Battleland

Why the Fight Over the “Great Green Fleet” is Fuelish

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Navy Photo / MCS Seaman Chris Brown

Fuels Distribution Systems Operator David Riggs in Manchester, Wash., secures a fueling hose during a biofuels transfer to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). Henry J. Kaiser took on 900,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuels and is scheduled to deliver the biofuels to platforms participating in the Great Green Fleet demonstration during the exercise Rim of the Pacific this month.

Next week in the Pacific Ocean, more than 25,000 American sailors and Marines will conduct one of the largest naval war games ever held. Along with grueling training under combat conditions, this will be an important test for critical new military technology: the fuel for the exercise itself. The Navy pilots will fly the world’s most advanced combat aircraft up to twice the speed of sound — powered by an American-made biofuel blend made from algae and recycled cooking oil. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has dubbed this the “Great Green Fleet.”

Yet not all welcome this development. Some members of Congress oppose the military’s renewable fuel programs. Meanwhile, thousands of veterans across the nation stand together in a coalition called Operation Free, united in their belief that our addiction to oil is a critical national security threat and that renewable fuels are essential to the future.

Operation Free’s veteran volunteers come from all over the country and from every political persuasion. But we all agree on one thing: America depends on oil to a dangerous degree, and we do not produce enough of it here at home to ensure our future security or prosperity. Indeed, in conversations with veterans across America, I have yet to meet a single one who disputes this troubling reality.

That should not come as a surprise. Veterans, after all, have walked the burning oil fields of Iraq and defended fuel convoys in Afghanistan; they’ve faced oil-funded Taliban insurgents and oil-purchased Iranian weapons. They have seen first-hand that our thirst for oil has a direct impact on military operations on both the tactical and strategic level. And overwhelmingly, veterans want to do something about it.

Some would argue that new drilling technologies allow us to reach enough oil to meet our nation’s demand. This is a fallacy, for at least three reasons. First, we cannot drill enough here in the United States to meet our needs. The U.S. consumes more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but has about three percent of the world’s reserves.  Simply put, we cannot drill our way out of this problem.  Second, American families would remain vulnerable to price spikes at the pump even if we produced more in America. Oil is traded globally, so a change in supply or demand anywhere in the world affects the price here, regardless of where the oil comes from. In 2000, truck drivers in England went on strike over gas prices at a time when the British were producing more oil than they could use. But that didn’t protect British truckers from rising world oil prices. When it comes to the price we pay at the pump, there’s no such thing as “foreign” oil.

Finally, global demand for oil is rising breathtakingly fast. While American demand has been relatively flat for some time, demand in China, India and the rest of the developing world is skyrocketing. Over the next two decades, China’s oil consumption is expected to grow by 80 percent and India’s will double. Increasing domestic production to make up for the growth in international demand is a fiction. Yet even if it were possible, OPEC and other producers will do what they’ve done for decades: artificially reduce their production to generate higher prices.

Reality is stark: Even if we could find enough oil in the U.S. to meet our own demand, the most optimistic oil man would admit we will never be able to meet global demand with American oil.  And without alternatives, we have no choice but to pay whatever price the oil market demands.

This is a future no American should embrace. Instead, we must use our resources wisely, innovate and invest in new technologies, and trust in the entrepreneurial spirit and skilled labor of our fellow citizens. We must follow the example set by our men and women in the Pacific next week, and seize control of our energy future.

 Mike Breen is a former U.S. Army Captain, Vice President of the Truman National Security Project and a Surrogate for the clean energy campaign, Operation Free.

13 comments
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Zac Aldridge
Zac Aldridge

Biofuels progress to have a feeling in peacetime operations, they could not be readily to be had in combat situations.So may well overall warming strengthen decrease the likelihood of El Nino forming in the placatory? If so, with the aim of may well destroy crops, leading to a lack and one more spike in demand meant for palm lubricate and vegetable lubricate?

 

Matthew Schor
Matthew Schor

Add up all the external costs of running the U.S. economy on fossil fuels. Health costs. Drilling costs (we can leave the land pristine and enjoy it for fishing! Eat the salmon. Very tasty). Take down to hydro-electric dams. Let the fish come back and the black bears. Beautiful. Then there is our largest external cost for our fossil fuel budget: Ensuring we have a safe and secure supply of oil coming in each day. That is huge! Even the former foreign policy specialist and former Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey noted in the Wall Street piece that eight of the top nine oil exporters are dictatorships or autocrats. Time to change how we play in this game. 

Matthew Schor
Matthew Schor

Like Admiral Rickover, we have taught our children to think and question. Not just accept what is shouted at them. In fact they read books not watch television. Our children we dream will make a better world than we have given them. Not powered by algae, windmills (Dutch drainage technology to hold back the seas?), and of course solar which does not even shine at night or during cloudy days. How can you run a hospital in a major city on anything but reliable dependable nuclear power. Why is it that with a population of over 310 million people, the third most populous in the world, so many Americans have this fascination with ancient windmill technology? To reach the future, nuclear power must be part of the mix. We know how to build safe nuclear power. The U.S. Nuclear Navy has done it for a lifetime. We in the U.S. utility industry (well, not me, others) have done it safely since its inception. Yes, someone will comment "What about Three Mile Island"? The answer is the safety systems worked. There are three fundamental safety systems (safety layers), and everyone can see the last layer. The great big concrete dome containment building. It was not breached. No one died from radiation poisoning at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile coal miners die, we pollute the air with diesel fuel and other fossil fuel pollutants. We should increase the share of nuclear power to far more than twenty percent generation. Instead we are drilling for natural gas. OK, sure it is economical, but for how long and at what cost?

Matthew Schor
Matthew Schor

Now if we would follow Admiral Rickover's example and make use of the non-fossil fuel resources we already have (thorium and uranium for example), we can stop importing oil, and completely electrify our Information Age economy. We can go further and build electric cars, trucks, and trains. We need to elect leaders who will run on a platform to do what Rickover accomplished. The roadmap is there. Of course the People's Republic of China is increasing (as of 2011) its fleet of 15 nuclear power reactors spread out over 4 separate sites to a total of 32 (27 are under construction) to produce 6% of its electric power. By comparison the United States of America has 104 nuclear power plants producing roughly 20%. The math is simple for us. Increase from 104 to 520 nuclear power plants (or equivalent in more numerous smaller inherently safe designs), and we will have 100% carbon-free, no coal mining death electric power. Double it again to 1040 nuclear power plants, put Detroit, California, and the southern automobile factories to work building affordable electric cars from the 1040 nuclear power plants (thorium powered - no plutonium weapons risk), and we can leave ALL the oil in the ground ALL over the world. If you don't know thorium Google it. A fun company that was called Thorium Power is now Light Bridge. Check out their website at www.ltbridge.com. It says "Nuclear Energy for the 21st Century" Now that beats algae any day!

Matthew Schor
Matthew Schor

Admiral Rickover specifically built the nuclear Navy because it was NOT dependent on fossil fuels. Unlike Pearl Harbor, our naval fleet would never again worry about when or were it would run out of fuel. His dissenters at the time tried to force his retirement many times. Only his supporters in the United States Congress kept him as an Admiral. 

Matthew Schor
Matthew Schor

Admiral Rickover anyone? Go Navy! This problem was solved a long time ago. Rickover said (from WikiPedia) about the Fossil Fuel Age:

Following his formal education in the U.S. as described above and the birth of his son, Robert, Admiral Rickover developed a decades-long and outspoken interest in the educational standards of the United States, stating in 1957:"I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants - those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to give America's youngsters the best possible education. We need the best teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger numbers of competent and highly trained men and women."

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

I swear I really don't understand why this topic excites the U.S. Armed Forces. It shouldn't. It's not a topic. It is SIMPLE to solve and the generals already possess all the needed informations to solve it.

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FIRST CASE : FUEL CONSUMPTION DURING WAR

The U.S. Armed Forces have been seeking the ability to fight 2,5 simultaneous, conventional, classic wars since Reagan. Well, they need to have THREE things to do that, not just one:

1) Enough personnel,

2) enough hardware (= means of transport, weapons, and especially enough ammunitions [!] )

and

3) enough fuel.

Since ammunition + fuel are consumables (meaning: They're wasted faster in battle than personnel, transport means and weapons), the U.S. Armed Forces need to keep significant reserves of these two items to fight their projected 2,5 wars anywhere on the globe.

Do they? If yes, then relax, everybody. And: Next topic, please.

If not: Since the U.S. Armed Forces already have

1) enough personnel to conduct 2,5 wars anywhere in the World (I didn't say anything about winning them)

and also

2) enough means of transport, weapons, and presumably also enough ammunitions for that, too (oops... a few years ago they ran out of rifle ammo against the half-naked Talibans, no kidding... but that was just a productivity problem, not a money problem),

then all they still need is

3) a strategic fuel reserve for 2,5 long wars anywhere at their antipodes.

This way, should Iran for example block the Strait of Hormuz and cut the World's oil flow, while China simultaneously attacks Taiwan, and North Korea invades South Korea, too (= three amp; simultaneous amp; short distance attacks amp; far away = the ultimate nightmare), the U.S. Armed Forces could still travel fast and far and fight while the rest of Mankind has to walk on foot.

So, as you see, the only issue here (for the Military) is not one of “national and international crude reserves, confirmed and projected”, “crude prices”, “extraction processes”, “profitability” and “alternative fuels”, etc., etc., etc., but if the U.S. Armed Forces were already sufficiently COHERENT and DISCIPLINED to put aside such refined fuel reserves for 2,5 long, distant wars (those large white storage tanks which everybody knows) – or if they chose to be optimistic instead, or even greedy: Maybe the general sold his vital strategic reserve under the table due to the current spike in oil prices.

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SECOND CASE : FUEL CONSUMPTION IN PEACE-TIMES

Unfortunately

1) this article doesn't mention which PERCENTAGE of the D.o.D.'s budget is spent at the gas station,

2) nor do its two graphs show which percentage of oil in the U.S.A. is used by the Armed Forces ( WHY do U.S. American military blogs NEVER directly provide the most cardinal, most elucidative informations??! Always beating around the bush...).

But

1) the fuel type (and hence its cost per liter) is T-H-E S-A-M-E for advanced stealth fighters as well as for old cargo planes, or for super-duper-tanks and for motorcycles,

while

2) the acquisition prices and the operating amp; maintenance costs of all modern, military means of transport climb obscenely,

so I think it's safe to predict that in the future FUEL will constitute an INCREASINGLY SMALLER part of the price tag of any war, peace-time exercise and routine trip. And therefore the LEAST of all financial worries for the generals!

Simple case: If you U.S. Americans have the money to buy 2.443 F-35s, and if you also have 51.143 $ for every single flight hour of every single of those 2.443 F-35s, for over three decades straight (U.S. taxpayer, take a chill pill before doing the math), then you can bet that you also have the necessary money to fill them up.

Proud, chauvinistic F-22 owners and B-2 owners who whine about “fuel prices” are as hypocritical (or... as cheapish...) as people who bought top pedigree dogs just to impress the Johnsons, yet in the pet shop they haggled over the price of the collar (I've seen that happen).

Here in France we say to that “noblesse oblige”...

I'd also rather slap a helmet on a fully-trained nuclear bomber pilot and give him a bayonet and a shovel than doubling the corn price (= our food! MY FOOD !!!) just to pour 50 % of biofuel into warplanes. Otherwise, who's defending whom in our “free”, “Law-based” Western societies?

“Biofuel a joke”

http://www.successvibe.com/for...

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CONCLUSION

The rest of this whole fossile fuel topic concerns only the civilian Society. On the global oil market the militaries themselves aren't even considered big oil clients, just “strategically important” fossile fuel clients. I mean: Clients of fossile fuel, not fossile clients of fuel.

Kevin Brent
Kevin Brent

Anyone who thinks bio-fuels are the future, needs a psyche eval. And, anyone who thinks a military that can't build it's own weapons systems is the next world juggernaut is either a defeatist, or someone whose never spent a day in a military uniform.

Common_SenseGovt
Common_SenseGovt

This seems like a great idea; the less dependent we are on non-domestic sources of fuel, the more freedom we have from foreign nations. 

As the military is such a large user of fuel, and has economies of scale to reduce the cost quickly, it makes sense for them to lead the charge. 

Ohwoahisme
Ohwoahisme

A 'green fleet' is fine until the first shot is fired, and then your planning is a little askew.  The Chinese aren't currently worried about 'green fleets' as they're building up their overall naval fleet to surpass ours within the next two decades. So while biofuels make sense in peacetime operations, they may not be readily available in combat situations.  Nothing wrong with producing and utilizing alternate fuels, but not necessarily always practical when the poo hits the fan.

Guest
Guest

i have no problem with renewable energy sources. but the definition of "renewable energy" needs to be clarified. are we talking about corn-based fuels that line the pockets of big Agra and drive up our food prices? are the distinguished gentlemen from Iowa and Nebraska pushing this?

Dan Harris
Dan Harris

No this is not Ethanol. That has only a limited supply and does damage to engines that are not equipped to handle it.  These fuels are "drop-in" and can run on existing engines. Best time to do this is now while we're not in a significant conflict.

vstillwell
vstillwell

Well, I would agree that "we should trust in the entrepreneurial spirit and skilled labor of our fellow citizens." but it's hard to be optimistic about this when our country's elected officials are on a jihad against school budgets nation wide. Our country's youth are bearing the brunt of this depression we are in. They are the one's that are going to have to dig us out of this energy hole we're in because previous generations and this generation of leaders are too corrupt and short-sighted to do anything about it.

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