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Clean Energy in the Military: Report Says Biofuel Investments Could Spur Economic Growth

Peter Lehner

Posted November 16, 2012

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For nearly a decade, the American military has been investing in clean technology as part of a long-term strategy to stabilize its energy costs, save soldiers' lives, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. A critical part of the military's clean energy strategy is finding competitively priced biofuels to power its planes, ships, and other vehicles.

According to a new report, the military's push to develop biofuels could also create jobs and drive growth in the private sector, providing a critical economic boost for rural communities. However, Congress is considering a bill that could derail the military's efforts to expand the use of biofuels. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently before the Senate--sponsored by senators McCain and Inhofe--could significantly set back the military's plans to reduce its dependence on oil.

The military’s reliance on a single fuel source – oil – subjects it to international instability and price spikes. In the long run, our armed forces need a durable, stable supply of domestic biofuels. Developing the right biofuels-- which do not pose a threat to public health, biodiversity, and food security by increasing carbon pollution and degrading land and water--can create a clean, sustainable, domestic source of liquid fuel not only for the military, but eventually in the civilian sector as well.

A new study from NRDC affiliate Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) finds that achieving the military's strategic biofuel goals will have additional benefits for the economy, creating more than 14,000 jobs and generating more than $10 billion of economic activity by 2020.

Meeting the combined demand from the Air Force and Navy alone will require about 770 million gallons of advanced biofuel capacity by 2020.  A typical 50-million gallon biofuel plant in rural America, according the study, can add 550 construction jobs, 333 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in output to the local economy.

Federal support is already attracting private investment into the biofuel industry. Since 2007, about $3.4 billion of private capital has been invested in building new commercial biofuel facilities. Demand from the military would provide further incentive for private capital investment. As biofuels production scales up, costs will come down--as we've seen in the past with the semiconductor industry--paving the way for sustainable biofuels to be used outside the military, in sectors like commercial aviation.

In its pursuit of cutting-edge technology, the military has long been a driver of innovation and economic growth in America. Aviation, the Internet, and GPS are just a few technologies that have roots in military research and later blossomed in the civilian sector, profoundly changing the way we live.

Blocking the military's strategic efforts to develop biofuels could nip an important transition in the bud. As the E2 report shows, the military's investment in the right kind of biofuels-- sustainably produced, advanced biofuels--will not only advance its primary mission of national security, but could once again drive another advanced technology into the mainstream of American life, benefiting our environment, and our economy as well.

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Russ FinleyNov 16 2012 11:06 PM

The government could hire every unemployed person in the country to dig holes and fill them back in ...ending unemployment. But job creation with government handouts = wealth destruction somewhere else.

Everybody, from the nuclear industry to the corn ethanol industry will tell you about how many jobs their respective government funded projects will create.

It's meaningless because they can't/won't measure the equivalent wealth destruction those jobs create.

The military is a bottomless pit. Biofuels offer no strategic advantage at all.

Funding military research into biofuels is a waste of money.

James A Singmaster, III, Ph>d.Nov 17 2012 12:59 AM

The CON on biofuels continues because NRDC is totally unaware of the already harvested forever biofuel supply line from our dumped out organic wastes especially biowastes including separated sewage solids(95% cellulose). We let those wastes go to composting, sewage plants and dumps where natural biodegradation leads to unneeded CO2 emissions and unneeded heat emissions to add to overloads of both worsening GW/CC. What we need to be doing is going CO2 and energy negative and that can be achieved by pyrolysis of biowastes to get about 50% of the carbon in them made into inert charcoal to use as a soil amendment and about 50% of the carbon distilled out as a chemical mix to use as a fuel. I have posted many comments about this action on this and other blogs.
FOR OUR KIDS" SURVIVAL WE HAVE TO MAKE THE SUN OUR SOLE SOURCE OF ENERGY. I have sent details on how to this to NRDC leaders but the idea does not get attention at NRDC
Besides the action of making organic wastes into the key resource for sustainability in making use of the plants trapping of CO2 and sun energy, we need to be using the sun's energy direstly with a catalyst to split water to get hydrogen ,the clean fuel. This has been detailed in the May 14, 2012 issue of "The New Yorker" in article by Owen titled,"The Artificial Leaf". I have also posted in comments sent to NRDC officials that we need to reactivate the old CCC program of Roosevelt era to get new trees planted to take up CO2 and sun energy and get dead trees harvested to be pyrolyzed as described above. Our Pacific Northwest is having a monstrous die-off of white pine trees over millions of acres. As those trees rot out, serious erosion problems are certain to develop and much land may end up with too little soil to get viable new trees going.
Since pyrolysis gives a fuel mix, this handling of biowastes and tree farming can generate billions of $$$$s while giving a cleaner fuel and environment. VERY key point here is that pyrolysis of biowastes destroys all germs, toxics and drugs to reduce huge costs encumbered forever in present EPA monitoring requirements for dumps
I urge readers of this to call on NRDC officials and key govt officials such as Dr. Chu , Secretary, Dept of Energy and Mr. Panetta, SEC. DoD( DoD officials have been expressing considerable concern of CC/GW developing into bigger security problem for them than military actions from other countries) The basic point that needs to be made and understood is---
Dr. J. Singmaster, Fremont , CA

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