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The Navy's new Riverine Command Boat (RCB-X)  (Source:
Navy hopes to cut its fossil fuel consumption in half by 2020

It seems these days that many people/organizations are trying to go green. We have companies like Dell installing solar panels in parking lotsnumerous auto manufacturers are selling/developing full-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles; and even homeowners look to reduce costs by using fluorescent lighting and eco-friendly building materials.

Not to be left out, the U.S. Navy is showing its "green" side with a new 49-foot Riverine Command Boat (RCB-X). The boat is powered by a 50/50 mix of NATO F-76 fuel and algae-based biofuel.

Although there is no talk about an increase (or penalty) in fuel efficiency by using the the fuel, it appears to be more of a policy decision with regards to stepping up the use of alternative fuels in the Navy's fleet.

"Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy's mobility," said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division. "It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum.”

As with all new and experimental technology, the price to use such fuel in this prototype vehicle is astronomical. And when we say astronomical, we mean it -- the Marine Corps Times reports that the Navy bought 20,055 gallons of algae-based biodiesel at a jaw-dropping cost of $424 per gallon.

According to Wired, the Navy uses 80,000 barrels of oil per day to fuel its ships and wishes to cut that number in half within a decade through the use of biofuels and nuclear power.

"First and foremost, energy conservation extends tactical range of our forces while also preserving precious resources," Cullom added. "Our goal, as a Navy, is to be an 'early adopter' of new technologies that enhance national security in an environmentally sustainable way."

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RE: your cave is calling you
By Solandri on 10/30/2010 3:36:00 PM , Rating: 3
At this rate of economic ignorance and degradation, we'll all be living in caves and eating what we can scrounge for.

$424 per gallon is a hell of a subsidy for a company. Who owns it? What politician has interest in it?

Bio-diesel can be made for $5 a gallon. Not sure what moron, in gov't purchasing, signed up for this $424/gallon fuel, but he/she/it should be fired. First ethanol over butanol, and now algae fuel over bio-diesel.

Military spending is always a favorite place for the government to try out off-the wall ideas. Back during the cold war, the military was where the government investigated ESP just in case there really was something to it. It's where the government tests out stuff to see how much of what's being said in the private sector is hype, and how much of it has some basis in reality.

If you google for biodiesel (and algae-based diesel in particular), you'll run into all sorts of people claiming all sorts of things about how you can make it and how cost-effective it is or can be. This project is probably just the government's way to sort out the hype from the reality.

Also, don't be so quick to dismiss how well this can scale. A large portion of the stuff we take for granted today had its initial R&D costs absorbed via military projects. Nuclear power, nearly everything about aircraft, most manufacturing technologies, LCD panels (who do you think was buying them back when they cost >$10k for a 5" display?), radar, microwave ovens, computers, encryption, etc.

Back when the Internet started, it probably cost on the order of $1 per KB of data transmitted, when you could load a bunch of tapes into a station wagon and drive it to the destination for pennies per MB. If we had stopped ARPAnet cold back then because it was much cheaper to improve station wagon tape transport technology, where would we be today? True, not everything is guaranteed to be that successful. But we won't know until we try, right?

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