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Biofuels Navy biofuel program keeps growing

Published on March 19th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Another Day, Another Attack On Navy Biofuel

March 19th, 2013 by  

The Senate is set to vote today on amendments to the $984 billion federal spending bill, and our friends over at The Hill tell us that hidden among the gems is a measure to strip out U.S. Navy biofuel initiatives. Talk about closing the barn door after the horses have run out! While certain anti-biofuel lawmakers have been busily pushing their legislative pencils around, the Obama Administration has been actually doing stuff to ensure that the Navy can diversify its ships, aircraft and ground vehicles out of an increasingly risky, and costly, dependence on petroleum.

Navy biofuel program keeps growing

Biofuel grass (miscanthus) by D H Wright via flickr

 Low Cost Biofuel For the US Navy

Today’s biofuel vote won’t been the first time that certain members of Congress have attacked the Navy’s ambitious biofuel programs. The main line of attack is that biofuel is currently more expensive than petroleum, so it’s a waste of money.

The Obama Administration began addressing that issue systematically in 2011, launching a biofuel initiative that teamed the Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Navy to help jumpstart the advanced biofuel industry into commercial production.

Given new developments in biorefining technology and a greater scale of production, biofuels have a better shot to achieve price parity with conventional petroleum fuel. When that happens, it will demolish the case against the Navy’s biofuel program.

A Navy Biofuel Refinery Grows in North Carolina

Last year, the Obama Administration expanded its inter-agency efforts with a new Agriculture Department biofuel loan program to establish eight major biorefineries across the country.

One of those biorefineries will be built in North Carolina by the global company Chemtex, and let’s focus on that as an example of how things are moving along in the real world while those aforementioned legislators are putting the Navy’s biofuel initiatives through another show trial.

Yesterday, North Carolina’s Fay Observer reported that construction could start on the Chemtex biorefinery by this fall, and adding more volume to the U.S. biofuel production landscape is just part of the equation.

In an earlier report, the Observer noted that the new facility will create 65 direct permanent jobs and 250 indirect jobs in supply, maintenance and biofuel crop transportation.

As an additional benefit to the local economy, the crops will consist of miscanthus and switchgrass, which will enable corn and soybean farmers to put marginal, unused land into cash crop production.

The USDA estimates that local farm revenues could add up to $4.5 million once the new biorefinery goes into operation.

The Observer also notes that the bulk of that available land will most likely consist of approximately 100,000 acres that are currently used as dumping grounds for waste from hog farms. Called spray fields, these lands currently grow Bermuda grass. The idea is to transition them over to biofuel grasses that have a higher energy content, like miscanthus.

Many Benefits from Advanced Biofuels

When you add it all up, more and cheaper biofuels is just one aspect of the U.S. Navy’s push for biofuels.

Toting up the advantages for a state like North Carolina, which currently has to import virtually all of its petroleum, you get a local fuel production facility that creates hundreds of local jobs while creating new markets for a major existing industry, agriculture.

That pattern is being repeated elsewhere in the U.S., for example in New York State where shrub willow is being developed as a cash crop for farmers to grow on marginal land.

Okay, so now go ahead and have your vote.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • peedee

    The US Biofuels Initiative MANDATE is the single greatest threat to humanity after the US Defense Department. Entirely due to the MANDATORY biofuels tax credits stolen from US health and human services programs funding in the US Farm Bill, 880,000 square MILES of pristine tropical rain forest and virgin prairie were slashed and burned last year alone, in the Congo, Central and South America and Sumatra, the last reserves of biota and species diversity on earth, for more Billionaire GMO Biofuel plantations. 880,000 square miles, and 1,000,000s of aboriginals, campesanos and artisanals violently pushed off their freeland holdings, and 10,000,000 3W children now at risk of Famine, according to World Bank. All due to the US Biofuels Initiative MANDATE, and its perverse impact on all life on earth.

    Where once monkeys ran howling through the trees and countless birds filled the morning and evening hours with raucous song, now there is just silence. The deadly silence of the stripped and plowed and bleeding bare earth Corporate plantations. The Maya Nut Foundation, which does self-sufficiency outreach programs with the poorest of the poor in Central America, reports that biofuel palm oil plantations are spreading like a disease, wiping out livelihoods and forcing families into jobless urban gulags to starve. Across Sumatra, endangered species programs report massive animal migrations to flee the encroaching GMO biofuels plantations, wiping out the last reserves of countless jungle plant species biota and human food cultivars, as the sky is blackened with choking smoke so dense, it reaches clear to Singapore!

    Across Africa, Corporate GMO Biofuels plantations have bought up millions of hectares of fertile ground, in some cases 40% of an entire African nation have been leased out, and the millions of natives living on those lands pushed to the periphery, to the deserts and the badlands, to starve, so that US Corporate farmers and Defense research labs and foundations, can have their millionaire rice bowls and their fat pensions for life. Today Americans are FORCED to burn nearly 50% of their human food grains at the Altar of AGW Biofuels. FIFTY PERCENT!! No other nation in human history burned half of its food and survived. This has spiked human food grain prices around the globe through deliberate destruction of food for biofuels tax credits, and due to massive speculation by all the hot money generated from the Fed Bank Bailouts.

    4.1.1 H.R.230 – 21st Century Energy Independence Act of 2011
    4.1.2 H.R.404 – Renewable Fuels for America’s Future Act of 2011
    4.2.2 S.187 – Biofuels Market Expansion Act of 2011

    They all sound patriotic, don’t they. Hopeful. Change You Can Believe In. In fact, we already produce and import more biofuels than we can possibly use! US auto manufacturers and fuel blenders have complained that we are being forced to mix more ethanol into our fuel than vehicle fuel systems can tolerate! Yet the US Biofuels Initiative MANDATE employs a built-in ramp-up schedule that will DOUBLE mandatory mixing by 2018, making every US vehicle built before 2000 obsolete, and wiping out virtually TWO-THIRDS of US agricultural grain production, as well and starving BILLIONS of 3W peoples through higher food and fuel prices.

    What do you think the riots are all about!? Because they want to ‘be like US’? HA!
    We are STARVING the planet and DEFORESTING the globe with Biofuels. And the ultimate joke, the true sardonic humor: at the end of the day, biofuels require at the least 0.9:1.0 or even 1.0:1.0 use of FOSSIL FUELS in terms of tractor fuel, truck transportation, fertilizers, processing plant distillation and distribution than the energy capacity of those biofuels!! And E-85 biofuel blends have WORSE GAS MILEAGE. Then by any simple mathematics BIOFUELS ARE INCREASING OUR RELIANCE ON FOSSIL FUELS AS THEY DEFOREST THE PLANET!!

    So when US SecState Kerry claims that ‘Climate Change’ is the ‘Real Weapon of Mass Destruction, in fact it’s the US Biofuels Initiative MANDATE that will end all life on Earth, and every year, that MANDATE is GROWING like a PANDEMIC DISEASE.

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  • Otis11

    “biofuels have a better shot to achieve price parity with conventional petroleum fuel.”

    What is that shot – what is the expected success rate?
    When would this parity occur?
    With what confidence interval?

    I have very mixed feelings about Biofuel – the only one I’m particularly in favor of is Algae to fuel. Other, technology centered advancements will make many of these programs obsolete before they become commercially viable, but on the other hand, there’s no telling what the information gained in the research will be worth… So again, mixed feelings.

  • Black_Coffee

    So this program is worth a 20% pay cut for 700,000 DOD workers. Man, priorities are screwed up. Great way to make enemies.

  • jburt56
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  • “Given new developments in biorefining technology and a greater scale of production, biofuels have a better shot to achieve price parity with conventional petroleum fuel. When that happens, it will demolish the case against the Navy’s biofuel program.”

    “That pattern is being repeated elsewhere in the U.S., for example in New York State where shrub willow is being developed as a cash crop for farmers to grow on marginal land.”

    I sure hope they cut out these subsidies. Might as well burn money in the ships. It will create more jobs. Eventually it may come out cost effective just like biofuel may as you say become cost effective.

    Renewable energy is being tarnished with boondoggles like biofuel.

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