A wise expenditure of taxpayer funds?

I think the cost of energy will come down when we make this transition to renewable energy.
Al Gore

Yep, the United States is going green, at least the U.S. Navy is. While I am sure there must be a local news release, I heard about it from a U.K. news article http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/27/us-navy-biofuel-gunboat?intcmp=122. The navy has successfully tested a 50/50 mixture of diesel and algae-based biofuel. If one reads it as a humorous article, it is very funny. If one reads it as proof of a successful use of green technology, it is amazing. If one reads it as a practical fuel source, it is tragic.

The Navy’s purpose was to demonstrate the ability to avoid dependency of fossil fuels . . . by using 50% fossil fuels. Wait, what? Well, one could suppose that 50% is better than 100%, which is good, right?

Well, the first test did not go so well. The diesel and the algae separated and the algae started growing. It caused corrosion to the engines. Oops.

The second test worked. It is a wonderful thing . . . except it costs $424 dollars a gallon. To break that down a little, the cost of diesel has not been over $5 a gallon in the last three years. It is now at about $2.49, but to be fair, let us say it costs the Navy $10 a gallon—we all know how economical government agencies are when spending other peoples’ money. That means that the algae side of the fuel costs $414 a gallon. Not to worry, it is other peoples’ money. The Navy was so impressed that they ordered an additional 150,000 gallons of the fuel. Mixed 50/50, that is 75,000 of diesel at $10 a gallon ($750,000), and 75,000 of algae-based fuel at $414 dollars a gallon ($31,050,000). Wow, that is a total of $31,800,000 for a whole 150,000 gallons of fuel. Everyone needs to go out and buy a diesel vehicle. That is a bargain too good to pass up.

There were two rationales in the article as to why this is worthwhile. First, the avoidance of dependence on foreign supplied fossil fuels; and second, the ability of this fuel to be made locally instead of having to transport it thousands of miles.

There was a recent article (which I cannot locate now) about the cost of fuel in a war zone; the U.K. article mentions the cost but does not reference where it originated. When all the costs (loses in transport from torpedoes or roadside bombs, the necessities of fuel conveys, the extra trucks and manpower) are totaled up, fuel in the war zone costs around $400 a gallon.

Apparently, the Navy feels we will be able to grow the algae and process it into a fuel anywhere it is needed; therefore, that ship, transporting warriors and war machines to a battle thousands of miles away, will be able to sprinkle a little algae over the side, allow it to grow, haul it back aboard, process it and dump it into the fuel tanks. Better yet, the Marines fighting in the mountains or deserts of Afghanistan will just start their own algae farms. Instant fuel, it does not get any better than that.

Of course, for those who think algae farms and processing plants will be a little more restrictive on where they are practical, there will still be the costs of transporting it to the war zone. Instead of costing $400 a gallon for $10 a gallon diesel, it will cost that same $400 plus the $412 for the algae soup. That is $812 a gallon for something that may separate and corrode the engines it is supposed to be fueling. Mmm, somehow I do not feel very confident, but what the heck. It is other peoples’ money.

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Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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