Navy’s ‘Great Green Fleet’ absent at expo

Navy’s ‘Great Green Fleet’ absent at expo

The U.S. Navy’s high-profile program to draw half of its energy from alternative fuels by 2020 didn’t receive much attention during the opening day of the annual Sea-Air-Space conference.

The effort, dubbed the Great Green Fleet and championed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, didn’t headline any of the panels. The topic of energy instead came up during an afternoon session that mostly centered on the Marine Corps’ small-scale use of portable solar panels in Afghanistan and during training exercises at stateside posts.

Perhaps the timing of the event is partly to blame. The annual expo, held outside Washington at National Harbor, Md., kicked off two days before the release of President Barack Obama’s budget request for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

Lawmakers such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have criticized the initiative to power ships, aircraft and combat vehicles with biodiesel and other alternative fuels as being unnecessarily costly. Fuels derived from algae and other alternative sources remain more expensive than petroleum-based products.

The Defense Department faces $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade under deficit-reduction legislation passed in 2011. Half of that, about $500 billion, will come from automatic, across-the-board cuts — unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative spending plan.

Despite the downturn in defense spending, the Marine Corps is moving forward with programs such as the Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network System, known as GREENS, and the Solar Portable Alternative Communication Energy System, or SPACES, designed to power radios and other communications equipment in the war zone, according to Col. Bob Charette, who spoke on the afternoon panel.

“Solar is the best technology for us” because Marines can lay it on the ground and keep a low profile during combat missions, Charette said in an interview afterward. However, it can take as long as 12 hours to recharge batteries for portable radios, he said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend about $350 million over the next five years on developing alternative sources of power, according to Katherine Hantson, an analyst in the Corps’ expeditionary energy office.

Mabus is scheduled to speak at the event’s luncheon on April 10.

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The Marine Corps efforts seem the most promising. Who knows about the Navy and Air Forces efforts?

Consider that the “green” in the Great Green Fleet is the color of the ink used to print dollars.

Dollars which are gushing profusely into the bank accounts of the crony capitalists who run these biofuel companies.

The political patrons of the crony capitalists tell us that biofuels are one day going to be a wonderful success. They say that what is being done now, with this buying of biofuel at ludicrous multiples of market prices for conventional fuel, is to let the biofuel industry “get on its feet”. We are then promised by the crony capitalists and the political patrons that huge improvements in the price and efficiency of these biofuels will shortly occur.

One guy says that this is total bunk. Who is that? A guy named Hartmut Michel. He’s a biochemist, and he’s a pretty good biochemist. Good enough to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry. And unlike the soft touchy-feely Nobel prizes for literature, and peace, and what have you, hard science Nobels still have to be earned by doing difficult, substantive work.

Michel’s case against biofuels is simple. He says that they are so fundamentally and inherently inefficient in terms of energy transformation that they will never be able to be economically or technically competitive. Never as in “not ever”. No matter how long we wait. This is true even if one makes extremely generous estimates of future improvement in biofuel process chemistry.

Meanwhile, the classic, conventional US energy sector is producing more and more oil and gas. The USA just passed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. No thanks to the Washington, D.C. twits and eco-holic fanatics who have obstructed this new domestic oil revolution at every stage.

So we do not need these “biofuels”, and it’s virtually certain that they will be a total waste of scarce military budget dollars.

Meanwhile, across the whole spectrum of the services, people are being downsized short of retirement, and drummed out of what they had hoped would be long-term military careers, in order to “save money”. Money which will then be thrown away on these preposterous and wasteful green fantasies.

For an eye-watering expose of the money the military has wasted on biofuels, and how hopeless biofuels really are, look at http://​wici​.ca/​n​e​w​/​r​e​s​o​u​r​c​e​s​/​o​c​c​a​s​i​o​n​a​l​-​p​a​p​e​r​s​/#n… . This paper was written by a senior Naval officer.

Nice research, torquewrench. I’ve always said we need to ask what the experts think.

While there will be some eventual replacement for oil and gas (just like the change from sail to steam, and from steam to oil), it will not be biofuels. This is how we waste money. Spending on marginal technologies and products. We need to make tough decisions. Cancel this program before we poor more good money after bad.

It doesn’t take a nobel winner to figure out WHY “Green” energy will NEVER work. It takes MORE OIL to make the BIO-Diversified fuel than it does to just make the OIL all by itself. Oil does not come out of the ground as Useful, it MUST be processed and making standard oil is the easiest and cheapest thing to do with RAW oil.

As with everything else in government, “Follow the Money”. That will tell who is who and what is what.

A lot of so called experts said the same thing about airplanes. I think the saying was, “If god had wanted man to fly, he would have given him wings”.…Look at us now, we’re flying. Just think where we would be if it had not been for the Wright brothers. In todays market, this guy Michels is probably right, but in a hundred years or so down the road.….who knows. The Idea Is Born.

ur right 100 years is spot on.….until then spending $1.45X unit cost 4 propulsion fuel? Do the math. Idea’s are for idelogues.….dreamy eyed or political patrons take your pick.…. science is for pragmatists. Dump biofuels 4 the mil., build the keystone + 4 refiners. and exploit the massive reserves of nat gas w/off the shelf tech. for comm. vehicle engines, electric gen. tech. et al. Drop the cost of elec, & oil & the jobs will follow.

ur spot on Taxpayer.…..but the Nobel Prize winner 4 peace trumps the Nobel Winner 4 Chemistry in this case. At least until the mid-term elections.

Agreed, but:

You don’t need a crystallographer with a Nobel to tell you about thermodynamics.

Anyone who stayed awake in college, let alone AP chemistry could tell you that.

Then again, crude oil goes out of the ground, to the refinery for distillation and pays a thermodynamic tax there.

Once all the light sweet crude is gone, then the heavy stuff requires catalytic cracking. Venezuelan oil has high sulfur. Some Saudi heavier oils have heavy metals (http://​ipac​.kacst​.edu​.sa/​e​D​o​c​/​e​B​o​o​k​/​1​6​1​3​.​pdf) , which must be extracted before cracking.

Then you get to stuff so heavy that it must be crushed (shale oil) or heated (tar sands) to extract the heavy crude.

Unless we get cars running on bunker fuel, there’s a post-extraction workup that isn’t particularly energy-efficient.

But as long as the price goes up, we have another fifty years of fossil fuel. And if the price goes up some more, Fischer Tropsch becomes cost-effective. The fun question is: at which point in the previous process does the cost of biofuel beat the cost of extracting it from the ground and converting into a form suitable for our uses?

If it comes to cars, can we just get more diesels and run them on peanut oil (which the original diesel design ran on) and make Jimmy Carter (and other peanut farmers) tons of money? Kind of leaning towards the pressure cooker designs that convert organic waste (eg, from farms) into fuel.

“Marine Corps’ small-scale use of portable solar panels in Afghanistan and during training exercises at stateside posts”

I thought Reagan told America that solar panels and sweaters in the White House were uncool: why are they cool in Afghanistan?

Solar has its own problems, but a big one is that the PRC crushed the solar panel market and you’re either paying more for American panels or less for Chinese panels, or more for Chinese panel kits imported to America for final assembly; then called “Made in USA”.

I don’t see the relevance of what you’re saying. The Marines are working in austere environments, not powering a first world economy.

A USMC “GREENS” solar panel system weighs 900 lb and produces 300 W of average power. For comparison, the USMC also has a tactical trailer with a 25kW generator and 10-ton HVAC unit mounted together called ITEG that weighs 3,770 lb and burns 420 lb/day of diesel or JP-8 producing 22kW of continuous power. One ITEG can power and climate control one Combat Operations Center tent. It would require 27 GREENS to generate the same amount of power. Doing the math, the weight difference of 27 GREENS v. 1 ITEG is equivalent to 5 months of fuel for the ITEG. In addition, it only takes 1 HMMWV to pull an ITEG around the battlefield, while it would take at least 14 HMMWVs to tow around 27 GREENS kits, and each of those 14 HMMWVs would require fuel of its own be manned by a crew of four Marines that each need food and ammo and equipment. The geographic footprint of 27 GREENs each with 8 solar panels is huge, and each is a soft target that takes 20–30 minutes to set up or take down. Needless to say, GREENS does not meet MIL-STD-810F for all-weather performance that was required to procure ITEG, because solar panels don’t work under conditions of night, clouds, rain, salt fog, 60 mph gusting winds, or 40 mph blowing sand and dust. The fragile and highly-reflective glass panels of a GREENS create a huge soft target that undermines any attempt at camouflage or concealment and screams “shoot me.” Our enemies can only hope we are so silly as to impose such folly on our fighting forces in the name of security–national, energy, or political.

Sorry, I was too generous. Double-checking my math, it actually takes 73 GREENS to replace an ITEG and a 19 HMMWVs to tow them if you can fit 4 systems on a 2-ton trailer.

The idea isn’t new top dog, as long as we’ve had corn oil we’ve known we can produce an oil from plants. The new part is the mythology of the greenies and how bio diesel is cost effective. As long as petroleum is available it won’t be. The US has conservatively 100 years worth of current daily needs in shale oil reserves alone. That doesn’t factor is the various more traditional sources in off shore deposits. It also doesn’t take into account liquefying natural gas which we have a bagoodle of as well and converting say all commercial vehicles to that.

Corn is already sky high in price, due to ethanol use. Grocery prices are up due to that. Where will you find the land to grow more crops for bio fuel? Where will you find the water for the extra crops? Most of the US cropland is in drought areas and no relief in sight. You want us to pump out the remaining water to grow biofuel when we have lots of oil? How do you think biofuel is made, the bio part means some kind of equipment is used to harvest/process it. Get real!

Part of the reason for solar panels comes from the real cost of fuel for the Marines at outlying outposts. Ship it from outside the zone and convoy it several hundred miles secured by a bunch of vehicles who are burning fuel that ain’t going to make to the outposts. Add it up and some of the fuel cost $350+ per gallon. I am NOT saying to replace everything with solar panels. But at a fixed outpost, with hardier solar panels, reducing the frequency and size of convoys is really a pretty good idea. Unfortunatly, research is expensive and in todays budget, it will be a long time before those panels will be available.

It is a myth that the military pays $350 or $400/gal for fuel to the front lines. Instead of wild guesses, the military has now put intellectual rigor into its “fully burdened cost of fuel” (FBCF) which prices in all the externalities of transportation and convoy protection. The highest per gallon cost is for delivery by air in a hostile environment and is computed at $45 per gallon, and the lowest cost is $3 per gallon. (Schwartz, et al. Department of Defense Energy Initiatives: Background and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service, June 5, 2012. http://​fpc​.state​.gov/​d​o​c​u​m​e​n​t​s​/​o​r​g​a​n​i​z​a​t​i​o​n​/​1​9​370… ).

If you buy enough Chinese solar panels and build a solar panel farm in Afghanistan that gets mortared every day…

Won’t be long before we decide on RTG’s. Or a Sterling engine, or a TPV, or AMTEC. Short of having every infantryman carry a solar panel to recharge gear, or every outpost run a largish solar farm to charge Li-Ion batteries and power electronics…?

Holistically, we need to decide on if we are willing to stop eating just to have biofuel.

If we drain the Ogalla just to grow corn for biofuel, we won’t even have water for fracking. America will be toast.

Solar needs a few leaps in efficiency to improve. The unpopular approach would be a large RTG. Or an aerostat with solar panels to keep the arrangement out of harm’s way…especially since we are going to go with aerostats to ISR the countryside anyways.

Forget biofuel. It’s a dead end. That’s been explained already on here, so I won’t belabor the point. Solar is a nice niche technology — in garrison, where you can permanently install and maintain it as a supplemental power source. In the field, it’s a poor idea, for reasons already cited above.
For Marine and Army units, I suggest RTGs for the compact power souce, easily portable. For the Navy, reactors to turn sea water into hydrogen.

You are right on, COL. I wonder how many refiners we could have built on federal land — with all the accessories, i.e. pipelines, etc. using the billions of dollars wasted on the TARP? Before Congress okays any further billion dollar energy/infrastructure funds, make sure they have to build a refiner — FIRST!!

thanks for the data Cliff! great info.


Wow, that’s pretty concise numbers. Source?

Then again, this is all stuff we know from…the commercial sector!

Did you miss the posts that worked out the energy calcs?





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