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The Military Transportation Idle

Fat Replaces Oil In F-16s 206

Posted by samzenpus
from the top-grease-gun dept.
It looks like the military has finally figured out a way to combine Americans' love of french fries with their love of blowing stuff up. The Air Force says all of its 40-plus aircraft models will be able to burn biofuels by 2013, three years ahead of schedule. From the article: "The Army wants 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The Navy and Marines aim to shift half their energy use from oil, gas and coal by 2020. 'Reliance on fossil fuels is simply too much of a vulnerability for a military organization to have,' U.S. Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus said in an interview. 'We’ve been certifying aircraft on biofuels. We’re doing solar and wind, geothermal, hydrothermal, wave, things like that on our bases.'”
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Fat Replaces Oil In F-16s

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  • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:38PM (#37767608) Homepage
    Everyone should've switched to NTFS by now...
  • coal? (Score:3, Funny)

    by edxwelch (600979) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:43PM (#37767680)

    > The Navy and Marines aim to shift half their energy use from oil, gas and coal by 2020.

    Didn't release you could run a F-16 on coal

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:44PM (#37767710)

    If military vehicles remain dependent on the same traditional fuel, it will ultimately be the collapse of the US.

    I'd never really thought of this, but it makes good sense both militarily and environmentally. Economically, well, it's clear the economic sustainability of the military has never really been important.

    • by immaterial (1520413) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:50PM (#37767806)
      This is something that Germany was very aware of [af.mil] in the aftermath or WWI and run-up to WWII. Having your nations military so beholden to outside sources gives others a stranglehold over it. Of course, the same could be said for the nation's economy as a whole...
      • That _was_ one of the issues that Nazi Germany's economy/industry eventually couldn't deal with.
        This was an also an issue in the Pacific - Japan doesn't have a native supply of petroleum either. For instance, a mid-1941 US embargo was a key event in the pre-Pearl Harbor timeline.

        • Wow, relevant examples involving nazis on a web forum.
          • Well yes, of course it's possible. :)
            Godwin's Law simply says that Nazi references become more likely the longer the discussion. Such references are often ill-fitting, but not always.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Not to mention the Soviet Union was extremely aware of, which is why almost two million died at Stalingrad - most of them Russians. That was the gateway to their oil riches to the south and had to hold at all costs. From the WP page:

        The Soviets first defended Stalingrad against a fierce German onslaught. So great were Soviet losses that at times, the life expectancy of a newly arrived soldier was less than a day, and the life expectancy of a Soviet officer was three days.

        Lambs to the slaughter... but it was defense at all costs. In war, and at least if you're the Soviets, men were plentiful and oil scarce. They were willing to sacrifice plenty of the first to secure the second.

    • by amorsen (7485)

      I'd never really thought of this, but it makes good sense both militarily and environmentally.

      It doesn't make sense environmentally. Biofuels produced by plants or animals are a dead end, the efficiency is just too low and in some cases even negative.

      Algae-based fuels may have a chance, and once solar cells make electricity dirt cheap then turning hydrogen into e.g. methane may have a chance too. Until then, the only alternative to fossil oil is to turn coal into oil, which is even worse for the environment.

    • Actually, armies all over the world are considered sustainable by default. That is to say, they will always receive enough money to at least keep their equipment in working order, regardless of the economic state of the rest of the country, since they are the only thing that stands between the state and utter annihilation. If any state is at the point where they can't even allocate this much, then they are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, and not in the way the Eurozone is doing nowadays...

      • Actually, armies all over the world are considered sustainable by default. That is to say, they will always receive enough money to at least keep their equipment in working order, regardless of the economic state of the rest of the country, since they are the only thing that stands between the state and utter annihilation. If any state is at the point where they can't even allocate this much, then they are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, and not in the way the Eurozone is doing nowadays...

        Frequently other states stand between the state and "utter annihilation." Do you think nobody invades Canada because of the power of the Canadian military? Their military isn't quite one guy with a shotgun and a winnebego--they have some armed forces. But they have nowhere near what they would need to defend their natural resources alone. The Uranium alone is worth a fortune.

        They are not annihilated because other countries with substantial militaries would go to their defense--NATO generally, and more s

    • by vlm (69642)

      On the ultra big scale. On the ultra small scale, you're fighting a war, your M1A1 tank (or in this story, F16) requires fuel, you can pump in anything that burns if it helps you stay alive. Been a military doctrine to "burn any fuel you can find" for longer than I've been alive. This results in certain legendary efficiency and volumetric power output issues over the past few decades, like the HMMVW that gets like 5 MPG and only pulls 150 horsepower out of something like a 10 liter engine, BUT, very impo

      • by citizenr (871508)

        , like the HMMVW that gets like 5 MPG and only pulls 150 horsepower out of something like a 10 liter engine, BUT, very importantly, if it burns, you can put it in the tank and drive off. You could practically crap in a humvee and would none the less run. I hated driving that Fing thing and it leaked oil every time I did a PMCS, but god help me it could digest and burn anything, the ultimate iron stomach. In my experience.

        This is a myth. Nice patriotic story about the might of American Engineering. Reality is every piece of military technology is an overpriced, delayed, porked piece of shit.

        • Yeah it's perfectly obvious that US military technology is shit. Although there are a couple of minor aspects of this characterization that are hard to prove. During the 1st Iraq war the Iraqis had the best air defense system that Russia and or France was capable of producing and it took only a few days to annihilate it. That's not even counting the F-117 squadron flying to downtown Baghdad undetected while the air defense system was operational. Russia might have been holding some of their tech back but th
          • And add to this that you can have the best hardware, but if he is used by a semi-idiot, is almost useless against a cheap hardware used by a professional soldier.
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Been a military doctrine to "burn any fuel you can find" for longer than I've been alive. This results in certain legendary efficiency and volumetric power output issues over the past few decades, like the HMMVW that gets like 5 MPG and only pulls 150 horsepower out of something like a 10 liter engine, BUT, very importantly, if it burns, you can put it in the tank and drive off.

        The problem with that approach is that the supply chain has to be capable of delivering 3x (?) the amount of fuel that a more ef

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blair1q (305137)

      The war in the Pacific was started over oil, and turned on fuel supply.

      In the end, Japan was using biofuels made from the roots of pine trees, which they had a lot of because the trees had been felled to be burned themselves.

      It took 100,000 pine tree stumps to make one tank of gas for a Japanese fighter jet.

      Biofuels are an overrated source of energy.

      Once the oil begins to run out, heavier-than-air airraft are going to become scarce.

      • The main attraction of biofuels is if you can make a viable large-scale operation with algae producing them - it's fairly efficient, and all you really need is a large area of unused land where you can put the pools, and we have a crapload of that all over the world, but particularly so in US.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          If any of those big coastal-yet-dry countries in Africa could get their shit together, they could be the next fuel producer. The nice thing about Algae is that you can grow it in saltwater. Pumping the saltwater into the middle of the desert can be done with sunlight and glass, no PV needed.

      • by JustNilt (984644) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @07:44PM (#37769140) Homepage

        The war in the Pacific was started over oil, and turned on fuel supply.

        In the end, Japan was using biofuels made from the roots of pine trees, which they had a lot of because the trees had been felled to be burned themselves.

        It took 100,000 pine tree stumps to make one tank of gas for a Japanese fighter jet.

        Biofuels are an overrated source of energy.

        Once the oil begins to run out, heavier-than-air airraft are going to become scarce.

        This has all the hallmarks of an urban legend. First of all, the Japanese "fighter jets" were basically nonexistent in WW2 [wikipedia.org], coming too late to enter service. Furthermore, the "100,000 pine tree stumps" isn't quite correct either. For one thing, it's the roots that were (are?) turned into fuel. Now, it may take 100k roots, I have no idea, but I highly doubt it was "stumps". Finally, last I read [amazon.com], this had been a pilot project (no pun intended) only. While technically feasible, the manpower required to convert the pine roots into fuel was determined to be too much of an impact on other programs.

        Regardless, this isn't an oil based biofuel, it would have been an ethanol one. Bit of a difference there, I think, though I am not an expert on the matter.

      • Once the oil begins to run out, heavier-than-air airraft are going to become scarce.

        On some planet where hydrocarbons can't be synthesized from common (and non petroleum based) feedstocks and energy from a nuclear or other (no fossil) based power plant. But we don't live on such a planet.
         
        (I hate to break it to you, but WWII was over sixty years ago - chemistry has advanced just a little bit since then.)

    • Between coal,the Bakkan shale fields, and the Bakkan oil fields, the US has more than enough oil to last for centuries.

  • So, do they smell like french fries when they fly over like the converted volvos burning used fry oil?

    • First, people convert VWs and Mercs (in the US, at least -- no Diesel Volvos here).

      Second, mine smells like fried chicken ('cause I run biodiesel made from chicken fat), thankyouverymuch!

  • Makes no sense (Score:4, Informative)

    by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:52PM (#37767844)

    All F-16's use F-100 (or F-110) engines, and without exception they all run on JP-8 fuel. Whatever the Air Force did, you can bet that they didn't change much. The concept that these engines are somehow eco-friendly is absurd, no matter what contributed the hydrocarbons that they are burning. At full afterburner, these engines can burn more than 20,000 pounds of fuel per minute .

    • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Informative)

      by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:53PM (#37767862)

      hehe, woops. That's pounds per hour.

      • by Waccoon (1186667)

        hehe, woops. That's pounds per hour.

        I was just thinking that they generally like to blow up stuff outside the aircraft.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Neither the summary nor the article made any mention of being environmentally friendly.
    • by PPH (736903)

      these engines can burn more than 20,000 pounds of fuel per minute

      And that would require the consumption how many rugby pitches of french fries, one Smoot deep?

      • sarcasm about non-metric units I take it? Fine, I'll use metric.

        JP-8 has an energy density of 42.8 megajoules per kilogram
        20,000 pounds = 9071.8484kg
        388.275 megajoules

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rugby_pitch [wikipedia.org] : 112-122m (using the 117m midpoint) by 68m, so 7956m^2
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoot [wikipedia.org] - 1.7018m
        7956m^2 * 1.7018m = 13539.5208m^3

        not sure how to do the french fry conversion though. thus, I can't provide an accurate answer.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If you produce the biofuel from algae grown in raceway ponds [nrel.gov] and capture [up to] 80% of the CO2 output of a coal or oil-burning turbine plant in the process, then it can be considered to be part of an overall "greening" strategy to fill the interim between the modern age of gas-guzzlers (well, more like diesel-guzzlers in this case) and the future age of tiny drones that plant explosives in your sinus cavity — as it will let you produce the fuel with a more or less carbon-neutral process.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      Uh, this has little to do with "eco-friendly" and more to do with "can we still power our killing machines after they've bombed our off-shore asserts and cut off our imports?" The idea of "green war" is absurd, and I don't think anyone is talking about that.
      • Its not so much about a "green war" as it is about reducing dependence on a supply of oil that could get cut off in a war. The first place our enemy would invade would be the Middle East. Why do you think we have a strong military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq? Its the only thing our leaders could come up with that we would (or I should say "DID") support. Why do you think there is a push to get at the oil in the Bakken formation or the oil sands? Both are not as economically feasible as a stable Middle
    • Doesn't matter if its a diesel truck or an F-16 at full afterburner, if you're burning biofuels produced from either recycled or reclaimed non-petroleum oil products (vegetable/cooking oil, chicken carcasses, etc), it closes the carbon cycle and is environmentally friendly (unless you want to argue the whole emissions control issue, but you're never going to control emissions on a portable gas turbine engine such as that on an aircraft.

      This is a step forward, make no mistake. Its not easy getting a new fuel

    • by couchslug (175151)

      They were designed to run a range of available fuels, with the most recent standard being JP-8 which also interchanges with diesel on ground vehicles. (JP-4 is better for air restarts, but went out of fashion after the Green Ramp crash at Pope AFB.)

      If you can keep it from growing bacteria (which can thrive even in diesel and standard jet fuel!), avoid corrosion and sealing problems, and get it to behave when mixed with other fuels, burning it is the "easy" part.

      Eco-friendliness is relative, and when you bur

      • Isn't any biodiesel carbon neutral pretty much by definition, and hence more "eco-friendly"?

        • by Zoxed (676559)

          > Isn't any biodiesel carbon neutral pretty much by definition, and hence more "eco-friendly"?

          Only if you use a very limited accounting method, because it depends on how much fuel (oil) you burn to get from, say, a seed, to a gallon of fuel (cultivation, transport, processing etc.).

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Not if the feedstocks are fertilized with oil, which is why it's so critical to use algae, which is made entirely from air and water. (It's faster if you can put some piss into the process, too.)

  • The Navy has recently announced that all of its aircraft carriers will soon be equipped with harpoon launchers. Hey, whale oil is renewable fuel too, okay ?
  • Leela: Gas was an environmental disaster, anyway. Now we use alternative fuels.
    Fry: Like what?
    Leela: Whale oil.
  • USA has an obesity problem (too much sugar [youtube.com]), so I can see an ad: "Are you a REAL PATRIOT? Be all you can be - get a liposuction!"

    • That video should be titled too much HFCS. Not too much sugar.

      • by quenda (644621)

        That video should be titled too much HFCS. Not too much sugar.

        No, HFCS is an American thing. The obesity epidemic and oil depletion are global.

      • HFCS has roughly the same fructose:glucose ratio as ordinary white sugar. Their health effects are identical, the only difference between them is that HFCS is liquid and therefore easier to implement into a food processing line.

        Cut down on all sugars instead of focusing on only one of them. They're all bad for you.

  • I wish they had told me about this!
    They could have switched all the planes to natural gas!
    I have a great chili recipe to donate to the cause of America's defense.

    Because, I sir, am a Patriot!
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @06:30PM (#37768372)

    Biofuels will supplement, but never replace oil for the military. Frankly, I doubt there's enough of it to be significant. Maybe if the military used ALL the biofuel produced in the continental USA, it could continue to operate... in the continental USA.

    That all being said, I don't have any figures on how much fuel the USA's military uses per day. The entire USA uses about 7 to 8 million barrels of oil a day, depending on what sort of day we're having. Anyone know how much of that is the military's share?

    • I can't give you today's figures, but in 2007 it was 363,000 barrels per day

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Probably a pretty decent chunk - the US Air Force is a massive oil user, since they fly globally (and basically act as a transport for all our allies, too, since we have the infrastructure). The Army's probably pretty bad as well - the fuel efficiency of an M1 Abrams is measured in gallons per mile, and that's of jet fuel, not gasoline or diesel. The Navy's probably the least gas-guzzling branch, since the biggest ships are nuclear, but even then, there's a ton of oil-burning boats.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Biofuels will supplement, but never replace oil for the military. Frankly, I doubt there's enough of it to be significant.

      50% seems significant to me. TFA quote:

      The force has a 2016 deadline for being able to get half its needs from 50/50 alternative fuel blends, equivalent to 400 million gallons of biofuels or other combustibles, such as synthetic liquid fuels from coal and gas.

    • You're off by a factor of more than two. While oil consumption in the US is down somewhat, the average has been a little under 19 million barrels of oil per day for a few years.

    • by Xest (935314)

      "Maybe if the military used ALL the biofuel produced in the continental USA, it could continue to operate... in the continental USA."

      Why would this be a suprising scenario to you? The US already uses far more oil than it can produce itself and it's military is perhaps the biggest consumer there. Why would biofuels be different?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Biofuels will supplement, but never replace oil for the military. Frankly, I doubt there's enough of it to be significant. Maybe if the military used ALL the biofuel produced in the continental USA, it could continue to operate... in the continental USA.

      We have more than enough unused desert land to replace 100% of our fuel oil consumption with biodiesel from algae using technology proven at Sandia NREL in the 1980s, including military use. The only thing lacking is the will.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @06:45PM (#37768534) Homepage

    DoD embarked on a major program about ten years ago to get all DoD equipment running on one fuel: JP-8 with a corrosion inhibitor. This will work in jet engines, diesels, and heaters. DoD has been using some biodiesel, and it has to meet the specs for JP-8. That's what this is about.

    DoD has been almost all diesel for years. Gasoline tankers have no place on today's battlefields, where there's no secure rear area.

    • by HBI (604924)

      There's a fair amount of mogas also, not just JP-8 "diesel", at military fueling points. Don't let them tell you that they've gotten rid of gasoline use in the military, it's a load of crap.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I see you failed to read the word "almost" in the prior comment.

        The bulk of what is consumed is diesel, because all the biggest, heaviest, and/or least fuel-efficient things run on it. Naval vessels, tanks, aircraft without props, humvees, APCs, etc etc. If the gasoline went away tomorrow it could be dealt with. If the diesel went away tomorrow it would be catastrophic.

  • WW2 RAF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Their planes ran on butanol 75 years ago, a byproduct of ABE production that yielded acetone for cordite manufacture. It was the worlds second largest biotech industry to ethanol for almost a century, but no one seems to notice how it's gone away. I don't want to blame the petrochemical craze started in the 1960s for deliberately outshining renewable and sustainable alternative fuel sources, but a ton of greased and greedy sons of bitches making decisions with their wallets later and I'd be remiss not to me

  • Save the planet! By 2020, all intercontinental nukes have to run on bio fuel! Imagine them being used and span the globe with poisonous fuel exhaust!

  • This sounds like the usual Liberal Political Correctness excrement. We produce oil in this country and in times of war the military is First in line to get theirs. Trying to set up an alternative parallel biofuel supply system seems nothing more than an attempt to warm the cockles of Michelle Obama's heart. Rather like when my Democratic U.S. House Representative was asking about why the military wasn't using solar power for their bases in Afghanistan. Pure B.S. that only makes our military's mission even h
    • by Iskender (1040286)

      Rather like when my Democratic U.S. House Representative was asking about why the military wasn't using solar power for their bases in Afghanistan. Pure B.S.

      Actually, fuel to bases in Afghanistan has to be brought there by road from Pakistan. There are people along the route who think sabotaging that transport is a good idea.

      Those people destroy or hijack the transports. You think moving to solar is some kind of ideological move. I suspect it's more about the military seeing that their supply lines are not in order.

  • I am not sure but I would think that M-1 Abrams' multi-fuel engine can already use biofuel. Honeywell doesn't mention it on their product page. [honeywell.com]
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Pretty much anything that can run on JP-whatever can run on biodiesel, but you may have to add stuff to it to raise the lubricity. As well, it can attack seals and linings (including metallic ones!) that will hold up to "normal" petrochemical diesel fuels.

  • I searched "peak oil" in the 140+ comments of this story. Nothing!
    I find it quite surprising...

    The first thing that came to my mind:
    At last! US army is aware of the peak oil and started moving away from fossil fuels.

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