Oct

1

 I'm not an expert in biofuels. I am on the board of a non-profit, which focuses on renewables and the Pentagon. There, we separate renewables into two tracks– biofuels and power. Most of my renewable experience is in the power area, including wind, solar and biomass.

I do see a lot in the biofuels area. Frankly, there is a lot of fascinating technology emerging and much of it is over my head (I have a weak chemistry background). One lesson I learned was that biofuel production does not necessarily depend on traditional farms.

One technology used algae as the foundation for biofuel. They combined water, carbon dioxide and a lot of sun to produce massive amounts of algae. They processed the algae to create a bio-diesel, which was later blended with regular diesel. Algae can be produced in a sunny parking lot, a brownfield site, or a cleared lot next to a power plant. The key is capturing carbon dioxide and sunlight.

The military is taking renewable energy seriously. A number of large programs started in the Bush years and most of them rolled over to the Obama years. I can attest this issue has had the full attention of the Pentagon's top leaders; for them it's all about energy security.

If the Army can use wind and solar to reduce the number of fuel convoys, they can save lives. If the Air Force can assure energy security, they can pilot drones in the Middle East with pilots sitting at controls in South Dakota.

Incredibly, if the Air Force or Navy Air can use clean fuels, they can land at more bases. I learned from a fellow member of the non-profit that the Air Force is restricted in landing and takeoffs from several military bases because their planes emit too much carbon dioxide. That member educating me on CO2 limitations was the former assistant secretary of the Air Force under the Bush Administration.

The Navy is upset their bases in Southern California are tied to an unreliable power grid. Twice, they've lost power to naval bases in San Diego, which apparently caused all sorts of unexpected challenges.

The Navy cannot afford to rely on one source for jet fuel, diesel or bunker. They have been funding development to access equivalent fuels from alternative sources, such as biofuels.

This summer, the Navy tested their "green fleet," where all military equipment was fueled by biofuel blends. These blends included jet fuel and bunker fuel.

Several believe the military will ultimately deploy small module reactors (SMRs). They will be used in theater to fuel combat operations and reduce convoys. They will also be used domestically to provide bases with secure energy. SMR technology is already under development by four separate companies and it will likely be deployed within a decade.

The private sector is leading. I'm told several ports, including some US ports, offer priority handling for clean ships.

It's easy to diss renewable energy. I was on of those who snickered at "silly power." I've changed my mind.


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