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Fuel is still nearly five times as expensive as traditional fuel

For better or worse the U.S. military is trying to fight an "army of one" campaign to switch its massive fuel consumption base to domestic biofuels, safeguarding itself from foreign volatility.  And despite some small bills to the U.S. taxpayers the push appears to be working.

Biofuels work pretty much like any production industry -- you produce more, and price per unit drops.  Back in October 2010 the Navy purchased 20,055 gallons of algae biofuel at a whopping cost of $424/gallon.  At the time that was one of the biggest U.S. purchases of a (non-corn ethanol) biofuel to date.

Fast-forward a year and the Navy is back at it.  It's spent a reported $12M USD to get 450,000 gallons of biofuel.  The bad news?  The fuel cost works out to around $26.67 per gallon -- around 6 to 8 times as much as traditional gas.  The good news?  The cost per gallon has plunged by a jaw-dropping factor of 15.9.

Algae Biofuels
A peek at the algae biofuels production process. [Image Source: Solix Biofuels]

While the incredible cost reduction is unlikely to continue at its current pace, the purchase validates something some national security and environmental advocates have been emphasizing all along -- if you produce more, costs will drop.

The latest fuel purchase is a mixture of repurposed cooking oil ("yellow grease") from Tyson Foods, Inc. (TSN) and algae-based oils from Solazyme, Inc. (SZYM).  Tyson is current partnered with a refining company named Syntroleum Corp. (SYNM) in a joint venture called Dynamic Fuels.  The Navy's contract is with Dynamic Fuels, who has signed a subcontract with Solazyme to buy its algal oils for refining, to help fill the large order.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus lauded the purchase as helping to grow the domestic biofuels market.  The fuel will be used to help power the Navy's "green" Carrier Strike Group during exercises in the Pacific Ocean next summer.

Carrier Strike Group
The U.S. Navy's "green" Carrier Strike Group [Image Source: USN]

The Navy, which uses 80,000 barrels of oil a day (3.36M gallons/day), has made the amibitious pledge of getting 50 percent if its fuel from fossil fuel alternatives by 2020.  At current demand levels, that would work out to around 613M gallons of biofuel a year.

It's not alone in that objective.  The U.S. Air Force now has 98 percent of its aircraft ready to run on a biofuel blend (though the allowed amount of biofuel in the blend is application-dependent).

The U.S. Armed Forces accounts for about 2 percent of total U.S. fuel consumption.  Of last year's approximately 4.62 billion gallon, $15B USD fuel budget, 75 percent was used in overseas operations, while 25 percent was utilized at home.

Source: Defense News



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RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By kattanna on 12/7/2011 12:03:27 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I would rather replace it with another energy source that doesn't need massive mining operations which in some cases removes entire mountains and destroys large areas of land


please name me one power source we use that does not fit into that description


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By StevoLincolnite on 12/7/2011 1:38:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
please name me one power source we use that does not fit into that description


That doesn't need mining for the fuel? Sure.

Hydro.
Wave.
Solar.
Wind.
Geothermal.
Tidal.


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By FITCamaro on 12/7/2011 1:45:27 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah when you can produce enough power from wind energy or solar power to move a BATTLESHIP, let me and the military know. He was talking about this purpose you dumbass.

Furthermore, those things DO take massive amounts of mining. You think the iron(to make steel), concrete, silicon, etc. used in those types of power generation comes from wishing wells? Wind power alone has spiked steel and concrete costs around the world because of the massive amounts of materials needed.


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By StevoLincolnite on 12/7/2011 3:02:28 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Furthermore, those things DO take massive amounts of mining.


Don't be such an idiot.

It's a 1 time cost in terms of mining the resources needed to build renewable energy power sources.

Mining for fuels is a constant cost in terms of mining, with more sources always needing to be found and mined just to supply the power stations that have already been built! And that's on top of the mining costs for things like Iron to build it to begin with.
Then if everyone wants Nuclear Power then everyone want's Uranium, then we have the same problem as we do with oil now.


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By ekv on 12/7/2011 4:08:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Don't be such an idiot.
Right back atcha
quote:
It's a 1 time cost in terms of mining the resources needed to build renewable energy power sources.
Your argument here is somewhat confused. When I drill a well (and I just love doing that 8) then that well does not need to be re-drilled for every drop of oil pumped. If you are saying that I need to drill another well in order to keep up with demand, then yes, the demand/supply curve still holds true. But then, such an argument applies to every "renewable" resource you've listed as well.
quote:
And that's on top of the mining costs for things like Iron to build it to begin with.
Something that I (and others) do not deny. Indeed, it is rather welcomed, considering all those jobs on the line. It is something you would seem to want to either deny or to minimize, which makes me curious.
quote:
Then if everyone wants Nuclear Power then everyone want's Uranium, then we have the same problem as we do with oil now.
The same holds for any limited resource. Are you suggesting "green energy" as a way of life in order that we might all live peaceably? Sing Kum Ba Yah even? Since, according to your thought, green energy is not a limited resource and therefore there would be no reason for contention over it?

At this point, you could sell me a seat belt ... to keep me falling off my chair in laughter. 8|


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By FITCamaro on 12/7/2011 4:40:06 PM , Rating: 1
Ummm...wind mills wear out. Solar cells wear out(and quickly).

And we have plenty of nuclear material for traditional nuclear power plants and breeder reactors for thousands of years. Nuclear material can be reused hundreds (probably thousands) of times with reprocessing.

And oil is barely used in power generation.


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By ekv on 12/7/2011 5:00:40 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
we have plenty of nuclear material for traditional nuclear power plants and breeder reactors for thousands of years.

"TerraPower has estimated that the stockpiles present at just the Paducah enrichment facility represents an energy resource equivalent to $100 trillion worth of electricity." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reacto...]

That puts "renewable" resources at a considerable disadvantage in terms of cost-efficiency. It also puts to question the term "renewable" since as stated by TerraPower "TWRs are also capable, in principle, of reusing their own fuel." So really, what is a "renewable" resource?


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By Mint on 12/8/2011 3:55:23 AM , Rating: 2
It's pretty clear to everyone here who is the idiot around here.

A turbine is expected to last 30 years. A 600kW model weighs 50 tonnes, and over its lifetime will produce about 50 GWh of electricity. Those 50 tons look great next to the 20,000 tons of coal needed to match that energy output, but how about 1 tonne of natural uranium?

What about the natural gas needed alongside wind or solar to make it usable? People aren't going to adjust their electricity usage to when it is available, so the gaps left by intermittent renewable power must be filled in by a quickly ramping power source: natural gas peaker plants.


RE: A Real Green Strike Force
By FITCamaro on 12/8/2011 7:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
Actually it'd be coal. And those coal plants would be fired up nearly all the time. Because you don't just shut a power plant down for a few hours when its not needed.


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