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The Military Power

Biofuels Will Power Navy's Next Deployment (sandiegouniontribune.com) 115

mdsolar writes with news about the launch of the "Great Green Fleet," part of a Navy plan to use 50% alternative fuels by 2020. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports: "This Wednesday, there surely will be tears, hugs and excitement as sailors begin another deployment to the world's hotspots. On the surface, it will be a replay of a common occurrence in any Navy town when sailors go to sea, but in the ships' gas tanks will be fuel made from renewable resources that has officials back at the Pentagon exuberant. 'Underway on beef-fat power' might not have the same ring as 'Underway on nuclear power,' the historic message the Nautilus submarine beamed when it left the pier 61 years ago today. Nonetheless, the Navy is trumpeting the use of renewable biofuels as a game-changer. In 2009, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that the Navy and Marine Corps would get half of their power from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, and that the Navy would deploy an entire carrier strike group using biofuels by 2016."
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Biofuels Will Power Navy's Next Deployment

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    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That kind of thermodynamic and/or economic efficiency never even enters into the equation. A navy dependent on a cheap globalized oil is a navy that is entirely useless when the shit hits the fan..

      • Because the US doesn't have PLENTY of sources of oil that it can ramp up quite quickly to meet demand nor the purchasing power to ensure more than a 5 year supply for the Navy should fecal matter impact the rotary impeller if production needs to ramp up. Oh wait, it does and you're a fucking moron. This is ENTIRELY a political stunt for idiots like yourself to ooh and ahh at like the trained monkeys you are.

        • Oil wells are strategic targets. That's why Rommel was in Africa. Feedlots may end up being harder to capture or destroy.
          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Yes, and the low density of the production will make it much more difficult to obtain amounts needed without significant transportation effort to concentrate sufficient amounts.

            So, they will switch from bombing oil wells to pipelines and rail junctions. Of course, they probably would hit those anyway.

            Using food byproduct as fuel has had a very iffy record. I'm not against using meat oil or cow farts to run things, but it is definitely not the most efficient use of a military budget.

          • by sycodon ( 149926 )

            Seems to me that if they are hitting targets in the U.S., the Navy is pretty much out of the picture.

          • Oil wells are strategic targets. That's why Rommel was in Africa.

            Actually Rommel was in Africa to save Mussolini. The real strategic target for oil for Germany was the Soviet Union's fields at Baku.

            Feedlots may end up being harder to capture or destroy.

            Biofuel from food industry waste is probably only enough for these demonstrations, not ongoing operations. For ongoing operational needs of the US military we will probably need biofuel production infrastructure, for example facilities where algae are excreting fuel. Burgers and fries will only get us so far. While there would still be industrial targets they would be domestic

            • Suez Canal played a small role there. Seems to me that we are in a position to deny oil resources to others with extreme prejudice if we don't need to use it ourselves. May prove to be an advantage in diplomatic efforts that prevent war.
              • Suez Canal played a small role there. Seems to me that we are in a position to deny oil resources to others with extreme prejudice if we don't need to use it ourselves. May prove to be an advantage in diplomatic efforts that prevent war.

                Control of the Med, or at least very strong interdiction, would negate the Suez.

                Denying oil to prevent/end war was a popular theory in the US Congress around 1940. It led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The ability of Iran to interdict oil to the US is the major reason we care about Iran and many others in the region.

          • Feedlots require significant energy inputs to operate. You didn't think all the corn and animal byproducts fed to the cattle were being grown on a small manually operated farm, did you? Did you think the tractors were solar powered? That the industrial fertilizers and pesticides were produced without usage of vast amounts of petroleum? Did you think that trucking that stuff across the country was done without fuel usage? Seriously, how exactly do you think feedlots operate?

          • You wouldn't hit the feedlots but the refineries where the biodiesel is created. There would be a lot fewer of them. You would do the same thing with traditional oil refineries too.

        • So... the US military should wait until it DOESN'T have that safety net, before starting down the road of weaning itself off oil?

          Reducing dependence on oil (foreign or domestic... they will both eventually run dry) is in the US's long term strategic interests. Period.

          If you're arguing against that, you're simply not thinking long term enough.

      • Biodiesel is pretty close to mineral diesel wrt to energy density. And it'll burn in a diesel engine. What might be a problem is that although many of its properties are very similar to the mineral stuff, it's not identical chemically. Biodiesel is a mixture of vegetable fats whereas the mineral stuff is mostly straight chain hydrocarbons. The vegetable fats tend to gel when cold and tend to form varnishes when left on surfaces. Those are not necessarily desirable qualities in emergency equipment that

    • Deciding on the infrastructure for a military naval fleet based on today's price of oil is pretty darn stupid. I hope you're not making any decisions bigger than whether to mop the floor counter clockwise or clockwise.
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      because will never ever go back up in price.

  • Let's see how long that resolve lasts, now that the US oil price dropped to 1.50$ at some point yesterday.

    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      It's not the U.S. oil price that has dropped to $1.50. It's the price of a certain crude of low quality, North Dakota Sour, which is rich in sulfur and thus expensive to clean and to refine.
      • The price of gas isn't directly reflective of the price of oil, as it takes time to sell the gas refined from oil that costed more per barrel. Once those stocks are sold, the cheaper oil ends up making the gas cheaper. The other problem is there's less refineries than there were 20 years ago, IIRC, so that we have this cheap of a gas price is kind of amazing to me. The Navy's next destroyer... Beef Supreme.
    • Re:We'll see (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @05:38AM (#51327841) Journal
      It seems unlikely that the navy has any particular interest in doing this as a cost saving measure(especially in the near term); and a much greater interest in knowing that they have the option of doing this in the relatively likely event that they'll be called to do something when one or more oil producing regions go further to hell than usual and prices and availability reflect that.

      If they happen to save money at some point, so much the better; but the enthusiasm is presumably for being able to set sail with a tested fuel even if the usual supply chains are shot. Plus, testing it in ships is probably a convenient starting point. Big marine engines are less touchy than fighter aircraft or the like.
      • Re:We'll see (Score:4, Insightful)

        by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @07:41AM (#51328051)

        This started as a cost saving measure when oil was above $100 a barrel. However as Afghanistan wore on and the Taliban would target the fuel tankers that provided the fuel for the generators of american bases, knowing that if they could disrupt those they could take out the base. The navy began to have a second thought.

        If a Naval Ship could gather enough algae from the ocean it could create it's own diesel. While not self sufficient it would help alleviate supply logistics that only deployed personnel have. Food can be air dropped, so can bullets, but you can't air drop fuel very safely. It would extend the range of aircraft carriers and other ships significantly.

        And that is the real reason for the biofuel push. When you hear about war, you think guns and tanks and planes. You don't think about where the bullets, food, and fuel those things need every day come from and how they get to the battlefield.

        A tank requires a lot of fuel. a couple hundred miles is a lot of ground to cover but if you are 50 miles from base and run out of gas in hostile country it is a long walk back,

        • by drewsup ( 990717 )

          Uhmmm, there is NO way a naval ship could gather and process algae to make its own fuel, the algae used in biofuels is genetically bred to produce meaningful quantities, and even that is a crap shoot, look up the probs algae farms have, plus the lag time and facilities to process, it is NEVER going to be feasible for ships at sea.

          • True. But if a naval vessel can replace 10% of the fuel they use or all the fuel they use for aircraft the logistics becomes much easier and cheaper.

            It becomes that much more they can do before needing resupply. And that is where a war is won and money is saved.

          • Of course a ship could run on algae -- of you don't mind 16 year transit times from Norfolk to Key West. One suspects that sails would be more reliable and faster.

            • All joking aside, there has been some preliminary-but-in-all-seriousness poking at the notion of attaching 'sails'(they more closely resemble parasailing sails than classic wooden ship rigging) to cargo ships to supplement the conventional engines.

              Even the optimists don't envision a substitution; but modest fuel savings add up when dealing with that many large ships making that many long trips.
              • Nothing wrong with sails for commerce if the economics work. Conceptually at least, wind powered freighters might eventually require neither an engine nor a crew except maybe to get into or out of port. It'll be a few decades before something like that can be deployed though.

                The military however, is prone to impatience. I doubt we'll see headlines like US INVASION OF MADAGASCAR DELAYED BY UNFAVORABLE WINDS any time soon.

              • Might as well, right? It's pretty much free energy.
        • I would assume that, at least for anything large enough, they'd want to go nuclear-navy unless otherwise pressed. That's certainly the most mature option; and if they ever get their lasers and railguns working they aren't exactly going to need less energy in the future.

          That said, both the army and the navy would probably be interested if you could get a small hydrocracking/reforming apparatus, sturdy enough for field use with a variety of assorted lipids, for on-site synthesis of fuels in a pinch. No mat
          • The Navy had some nuclear-powered cruisers, and didn't replace them when they reached the end of their service lives. The only USN reactors are on subs and carriers. The reactor power added a significant amount of mass to the ship, and was expensive, and I think that's why they were dropped. I don't really know why; speculate as you will. There's no reason we couldn't build more nuclear cruisers if we wanted them, but unless they can be made a lot smaller they won't be in smaller warships.

            One big iss

    • Not on the long term. For some time we are experiencing an "economic war" under the hood and it is right now involving the oil price to harm countries that are not pro-EUA. Once they achieve their goal the oil price will go back immediately to the previous levels.
  • CVN (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @04:20AM (#51327629)

    and the carrier will be powered by organically grown uranium

  • Yeah, that sounds real ecological. Last time I looked, you had to clear a lot of land for that stuff.

  • by dduck ( 10970 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @04:46AM (#51327705) Homepage
    Well, here we go.

    Used to be that USA and Saudi Arabia were allies of necessity. Not so much anymore. Once the US can project power without risk of getting strangled by OPEC they are no longer a necessary ally, only a convenient one.

    I guess Obama telegraphed this message early on in his presidency when he gave that speech in the middle east where he basically said the US would no longer prop up leaders that are not supported by their people.

    My theory is that China and the US looked at the projections for 20 years ahead: Oil production would no longer be able to keep up with demand at that point. So time to make the change, and screw over Russia while they were at it. No longer having to prop up a cluster of corrupt despots who desperately tried to hold back the future with guns and bribes is a nice bonus. ISIS and Al Qaida is basically what USA reaps from that :(

    • So long as they help keep oil cheap it is unlikely that they'll be edged out of the market; but that's one of the problems for a lot of the petrostates(not just middle eastern, Venezuela is having a hell of a time with this issue right now): if the product is too expensive, customers have an incentive to leave; but if it stays cheap enough to be attractive, you no longer have the same amount of money to spend on whatever mixture of guns and butter keeps you in office.

      It's not entirely clear that Malaysia
      • Brazil too. Here the newspapers (ferociously pro-US) are trying to use the low price of oil as a reason for the public oil company give up the pre-salt exploration and deliver (for pennies of course) the fields for American companies.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... hold back the future with guns ...

      You think the USA hasn't: The USA had a civil war in the 1860s, it had the civil rights conflicts in the 1960s. It's the same thing with the difference being; holding "back the future" is way more effective under a dictator or a theocracy.

      ... no longer be able to keep up with demand ...

      This was predicted in the 1950s but was continuously suppressed. The 1970s showed what almost-the-end of oil would be like but no government had a practical plan for it. GW Bush promoted fracking for his own benefit as much as for the hope of oil independence. It's ab

  • by American Patent Guy ( 653432 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @05:26AM (#51327811) Homepage

    The reason that we have all of those ships in the first place is to have the option to use them, if needed. Here, the Navy is creating the option of sourcing fuel from domestic, non-petroleum sources. Add to that the building of the infrastructure and development of efficient techniques of production for military and domestic use, and you've got nothing but gravy (which is not quite a biofuel...)

    So long as the admiralty keeps the options of nuclear and petroleum fuels as alternatives, I expect this will benefit far more than it will cost.

  • by DMJC ( 682799 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @05:50AM (#51327859)
    This further secures the Obama legacy as being forward thinking. By cutting ties with America's enemies who planned and executed 9/11. Obama has freed America to do deals with Iran which will now put the hurt on Saudi Arabia. About time those bastards paid for their crimes. Better to ally with Iran's secular population and conservative religious government, than remain allied with Saudi Arabia's Crazy Jihadist population and soon to be jihadist government. Just look at the Saudi foreign minister to see how messed up Saudi Arabia is becoming.
  • Really how did they get around congress?

    http://www.wired.com/2012/05/r... [wired.com]

    • The Senate amended [senate.gov] that bill to remove the ban.
      Though I'm guessing this law [congress.gov] and any more recent laws are what really mattered in the end.

      As an aside, I really wish the government used something more like git (or at least actual patch files) and showed commits/diffs/tags github style.

      It's really hard to grok what changes with their current methodology. First you look at a change (ex. "beginning on page 590, strike line 11 and all that follows through page 595, line 7, and insert the following") and so you ha

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Using whale oil would be much better - they could collect more while at sea.

  • Damn tree huggin communist hippies! Make love and war! :)

  • I wonder why the type of fuel is not mentioned. That would seem to be the key point in such an announcement. Maybe the Navy has found a way to capture all of the hot air that Trump is exhaling.
  • Don't know about biofuels, but there are proposals and some development work going on along these lines which actually do help the fleet. The reason for that is simple: you know which is the most valuable and important ship in the fleet? The aircraft carrier? The guided missile cruisers? The landing craft? Nope, it's the ugly, lowly oiler [wikimedia.org]. Unless these ships are successful in their mission, the entire fancy multi-billion dollar fleet grinds to a halt within a week. You don't see spots on them being promoted
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "At the very least, in theory, this can be used to synthesize jet fuel and keep the air superiority"

      Synthesize it from what? Nuclear-generated heat cannot magically create hydrocarbons. You have to have a source of carbon, and LOTS of carbon. Tons and tons and tons of it, as it is the majority mass component in HC-based fuels. There's plenty of hydrogen in the ocean which can be obtained through the desalination, purification, and hydrolysis of water (incredibly expensive and failure-prone process due to th

      • Maybe have a look at the links I provided before you comment? Your question is answered there.
    • Nice video. He's wrong about reactors in a civilian context, it'll be remote offshore wind, like where it always blows south of Iceland, for example, but the military concept is sound.
  • I know we are more in a posture to hunt down terrorists these days, but having the option to destroy rather than capture enemy controlled oil fields owing to strategic oil independence means an easier slog in the more traditional strategic posture. Always winning the last war faster is not a bad contingency to cover.
  • Seriously, all of our destroyers should be nuke powered. Smaller ships and boats that get in close to shore should remain non-nuke. But, Destroyers are going to head towards electric weapons, so all of them should be able to have excess electricity.

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