Biofuel U.S. Military Claims Called Out

The U.S. military’s claims that using biofuel alternatives to petroleum will save lives and advance national security is drawing fire from a Washington think tank. “Digging just a little below the surface shows these arguments to be camouflage for a bright green agenda that has high costs for the military, both in dollars and lives,” the conservative Heritage Foundation charges in a new article.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has been one of the military’s most outspoken proponents of biofuels. In a May release from the U.S. Department of Defense, Mabus noted that most truck convoys in Afghanistan move fuel supplies, and that “one U.S. Marine is killed by an insurgent attack for every 50 convoys that make the long trek through Afghanistan.” Heritage Research Fellow David W. Kreutzer wonders how biofuels for the petroleum would change any of that. After all, he says, “the biofuels would still need to be transported the same way as petroleum-based fuel.”

military convoy, biofuels

image via Shutterstock

Even worse, writes Kreutzer, is that the lower energy density of biofuels “would require even more of the costly and dangerous convoys than the petroleum-based fuels” – 12 percent more for biodiesel and a whopping 50 percent more for ethanol.

As for the Navy’s second point, that using more biofuels would make us less beholden to oil states, Kreutzer says the United States could accomplish the same goal, at lower cost, simply by firing up more domestic oil production. He notes that the Air Force – which recently tested an F-22 Raptor using a 50/50 blend of conventional fuel and Camelina-based biofuel – is aiming to produce 26,000 barrels per day of jet biofuels by 2016. However, Kreutzer writes, “opening just a fraction of 1 percent of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could … increase domestic production by 1 million barrels per day – nearly three times the total military consumption of petroleum products.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Truthsayer

    It seems inconceivable that there would be any report that the use of bio-fuels would save lives. The truth is that these men are placing themselves in harms way and even if we were to open ANWR for drilling; the fuel would sill need to be transported. I am very skeptical of the U.S. saving anything but their face in most matters of public relations and this is just what these claims seem to be.

  • Paul Winters

    The lower energy density argument from the Heritage Foundation is a complete red herring. The military has never proposed to use ethanol — it requires biofuels that meet military specs and act as drop in replacements for petroleum fuels. These fuels can be produced at smaller scales around the country, reducing the length of supply lines and the number of military personnel involved.

  • Paul Winters

    The lower energy density argument from the Heritage Foundation is a complete red herring. The military has never proposed to use ethanol — it requires biofuels that meet military specs and act as drop in replacements for petroleum fuels. These fuels can be produced at smaller scales around the country, reducing the length of supply lines and the number of military personnel involved.

  • Scottbeard2003

    What about the price of the bio fuel for the Air Force, $59.00 a gallon as opposed to $3.79 a gallon they have been paying for jet fuel. The suppliers of this “bio fuel” are mega donors to Obama’s campaign, and stand to get mega rich from this administration insisting the military use this fuel. Now, how cronie can you get?