In the middle of the last decade, the USAF toyed with the idea of making fuel. Specifically, they considered building a plant to convert coal to liquid fuel which would be mixed 50/50 with JP8. The plant was planned for Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. In early 2009 the plan was scrubbed because an “Air Force review cited possible conflicts with the wing's mission, including degradation of security in the vicinity of weapons storage area; interference with existing missile transportation operations; and issues with explosive safety arcs and operational flight safety.”. What really killed the program was Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This section of the act requires any fuel used by the federal government to be no more carbon-intensive in processing than gas and oil. Because the methods used to convert natural gas and coal to fuel are much more carbon intensive than current conventional refining methods, those fuels got the ax. But, not so fast.
The current National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, under consideration by Congress (H.R. 1540) contains Section 844 which exempts the U.S. Military from Section 526 of EISA 2007. This exemption is to encourage the inclusion of carbon intense synthetic fuels in the Military’s mix of fuel alternatives. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review determined that climate change is an “accelerant of instability.” It concluded that the military must “develop enterprise-wide climate change and energy strategies.” Congress would now be giving the Military permission to act contrary to its own best interest. Hopefully, having the ability to do a dumb thing and actually doing it are separate events. This effort has been seen as an attempt to slow the Military March to Green.
LTG(R) Norm Seips, USAF has come up on the net regarding this in a recent post. General Seips, former commander of the 12th Air Force can speak authoritatively on fuel use. As a command pilot with over 4,500 hours with a jet strapped to his back, he is a voice to which one should listen. His comments:
Just as the DOD's recent Quadrennial Defense Review predicted, the military's expansion into alternative fuels is stimulating interest and investment from the private sector. Young companies with promising technologies are looking to the military as a possible first customer. Their products could be in high demand on the global market as well, and could make a big difference in our trade balance.This is a great opportunity for the military and the government to serve as a catalyst for a new age of innovation that could do wonders for reviving our economy, improving our national security and reducing global warming.On the other hand, repealing Section 526 will sidetrack the process already underway at the Pentagon and simultaneously shatter any semblance of certainty in the commercial marketplace. Repeal would discourage innovation and force the military in to a deepening dependence on dirty fossil fuels with a giant price tag in lives and treasure.
Many are calling for the Military to be the catalyst for the growth of a “green economy”. The Military is engaged in this arena because it makes good sense from a security, economic and environmental perspective. The Military buys fuel; it does not make it. It should buy fuel that serves it well. That means locally procured at market prices. If that fuel decreases security, is too expense or has a negative environmental impact it should be off the menu. I agree with LTG Seips. Dan Nolan