Saturday, June 04, 2011
U.S. Military Favors Biofuels for Waging Future Wars
By Press Action
The U.S. military isn’t keen on War Party member Devin Nunes’ proposal to ramp up the development of a coal-to-fuel technology, which has origins in Nazi Germany, to produce fuel for the empire’s thousands of ships, aircraft, tanks and military equipment.
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power June 3, Tom Hicks, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for energy, questioned the wisdom of using coal-derived Fischer-Tropsch fuels to meet the needs of the Department of Defense.
Fischer-Tropsch is a thermo-chemical conversion process invented and developed in Nazi Germany prior to World War II to convert resources such as coal, natural gas and biomass to fuel oil.
“Given the enormous quantities of biomass required and its relative limited availability at the scales required to operate Fischer-Tropsch plants, biomass as a long-term feedstock is typically not considered practical,” Hicks said in his testimony. “More often than not, coal is viewed as the primary, if not exclusive, feedstock. As a result, in addition to requiring large, new sources of coal, it requires enormous quantities of water, $5 to $10 billion in capital per plant to provide a fuel result that has more than twice the carbon emissions of petroleum.”
Nunes, a Republican House member from California, introduced H.R. 909 on March 3. The bill, also known as A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, calls for expanding the production of almost every type of energy source in the United States. Ramping up the deployment of coal-to-fuel technology is a particularly important component of the bill because it would help sustain the rampaging ways of the U.S. military.
In a summary of the bill, Nunes wrote: “Germany had 25 liquefaction plants that, at their peak in 1944, produced more than 124,000 barrels daily and met 90 percent of the nation’s needs.”
But Hicks and his comrades in the military aren’t buying it. “From the Navy’s perspective, there is a better way,” Hicks said in his testimony.
That better way, according to Hicks, is biofuels.
“The feedstocks and the refineries needed to produce advanced biofuels to power the Fleet or our aircraft can literally be made in all fifty states,” he said. “The camelina grown in Florida and Montana, the algae grown in New Mexico, Hawaii or Pennsylvania, for example, can be turned into fuels blended in existing infrastructure in the Gulf or on the East or West coast to power the Fleet.”
The U.S.-based companies in the biofuels industry are using algae, biomass, yellow grease, jatropha, switchgrass, corn stover, and rotational crops like camelina, according to Hicks.
“We’ve seen such rapid technological developments in our recent history across a broad range of technologies leading cutting-edge industry leaders to assert that the data suggests biofuels can scale to the quantity needed without impact food availability,” Hicks said. “Not satisfied with simply having carbon emissions on par with petroleum, many of the [biofuels] companies are producing fuels having 50 percent lower carbon emissions. And, more often than not, they are producing fuels that do not compete for food, that do not overly burden water supplies, that do not generate enormous amounts of waste, and that minimize direct and indirect land use changes.”
Of course, not everyone shares Hicks’ belief in the environmental friendliness of biofuels.
“Ironically, the eagerness to slow climate change through biofuels and planting millions of trees for carbon credits has resulted in new major causes of deforestation, according to activists and some scientists,” Heather Rogers, author of the book Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution, writes. “That’s because deforestation puts far more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the world’s entire fleet of cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.”
Leaders in the environmental movement have formed a strong consensus against crop-based biofuels in recent years, according to Rogers. Whether derived from corn or any other row crop, these environmentalists believe biofuels “are doubly diabolical for seeming to be ‘green’ while in reality being polluting,” she writes. “Far from reducing greenhouse gases, goes the charge, biofuel production adds to global warming while also eroding topsoil and exacerbating all the other environmental harms caused by industrialized agriculture.”
The U.S. military is the largest energy consumer in the United States. Military officials see the writing on the wall when it comes to peak oil and competing with rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India for fuel. In order to sustain its ability to wage war and maintain bases around the world, the military recognizes it will need to switch to alternative fuels. That’s why military officials, such as Hicks, are hyping the environmental attributes of biofuels, despite the growing body of evidence that their production is extremely harmful to the environment.
Hicks also told the House subcommittee members that the Navy is seeking ways to make its ships and aircraft more efficient. “For ships this means that we can increase the days between refueling—underway replenishments—improving both its security and combat capability,” Hicks said. “Better fuel economy for our aircraft means we can extend the range of our strike missions enabling us to base them farther away from combat areas. Being more efficient and more independent, more diverse in our sources of fuel improves our combat capability both strategically and tactically.”
Given the degree to which biofuels harm the soil and forests, environmentalists already have enough reasons to oppose their production. And now activists have another reason to reject biofuels: such opposition could limit the U.S. military’s access to fuel sources, thereby frustrating its ability to wage global war.Share