Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gearing Up for Jet Fuel Savings

As noted previously, the Air Force is proving its planes will fly on a half JP-8/half synth fuel blend. This is good news because the synthetic fuel half is derived from non-oil sources, which also means less foreign oil required to keep USAF jets in the air. The bad news is it appears it takes a hell of a lot of energy to make that synth fuel out its various sources, including natural gas, and especially coal.

As Dr. Sohbet Karbuz explains repeatedly on his energy blog, the primary key for DOD is not in switching fuels, but rather, in reducing the amount of fuel that's needed.

Enter the Pratt & Whitney PW8000 turbofan engine. Long in development, its novel use of gears allows it to use 10% less fuel and it brings other costs savings as well. I'm not saying the Air Force's approach is bad. In fact, in an energy security scenario where the US is cut off from its foreign suppliers, it's essential prep work. But there's no debating the merits of more efficient planes (like the 787) and more efficient engines. We've got to keep pushing the efficiency (and conservation) buttons because synth fuels alone are energy intensive to make, and dollar intensive to buy.

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