Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oil News from the Advanced Naval Propulsion Symposium 2008

Morning update: on further reflection, what is said below for the Navy would of course hold true for the other services. Aircraft and heavy ground vehicle engineers, when asked to comment on what future fuels will propel their vehicles for the next 1/2 century, are in the exact same position. Looking out from 2008, there is simply no viable substitute for oil on the horizon.

As reported in today's DefenseNews, one summary quote from this conference on this one says it all:
The surface U.S. Navy will remain dependent on fossil fuels for at least the next 40 to 50 years.
That's what the engineers said. And barring enormous, unexpected innovations in ship propulsion, it's probably a conservative estimate. But still, it's kind of spooky. Today's $40 oil may make it seem like a benign forecast, but the ripple effects of low oil prices make it clear that the next economic cycle will witness global economies competing for far less oil than was available when prices spiked this summer. The implications for future prices are sobering.

That means a responsible Navy, knowing it's going to need oil for another half a century, would either begin hoarding money for future purchases at much higher prices, or hoarding low priced oil in a Naval equivalent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But as neither of these will likely come to pass, the Navy should work as hard as it can to prove the symposium's prediction wrong, no matter how difficult that challenge may appear today.

Photo: US Navy

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