U.S. Navy launches carrier group powered partly by biofuels

SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. Navy is launching a carrier strike group to be powered partly by biofuel, calling it a milestone toward easing the military's reliance on foreign oil.

See Full Article

But critics, including environmentalists, say biofuel production is too costly and on a large scale may do more harm than good.

Most of the group's ships will run on a mix of 90 per cent petroleum and only 10 per cent biofuels, though that could change. The Navy originally aimed for the ratio to be 50/50.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were scheduled on Wednesday to inspect the ships before they set sail off San Diego.

"In 2010, we were losing too many Marines in convoys carrying fossil fuels to outposts in Afghanistan, and the prohibitive cost of oil was requiring us to stop training at home in order to keep steaming abroad, a dangerous and unsustainable scenario," Mabus said in a statement.

The Defence Department uses 90 per cent of the energy consumed by the federal government, spending billions of dollars annually on petroleum fuels to support military operations.

All military branches are looking to cut their ties to foreign oil as part of a national security strategy. Since 2008, the Navy has cut oil consumption by 15 per cent since 2008 and the Marine Corps has reduced it by 60 per cent.

The Navy is aiming to draw half its power from alternative energy sources by 2020 so ships can refuel less, stay out at sea longer and no longer be at the mercy of fluctuating oil prices and oil-producing nations, Mabus said.

The federal government has invested more than $500 million into drop-in biofuels, which can be used without reconfiguring engines. The fleet also includes nuclear vessels, hybrid electric ships and aircraft powered partly by biofuels.

The Navy in 2009 called for ships to run on 50 per cent biofuel and 50 per cent petroleum. After that, the price for a barrel of oil topped $100 and has since dropped to as low as $29 a barrel.

Some of the biofuel comes from beef fat from the Midwest. Similar contracts are in the works to fuel ships elsewhere.

Retired Navy Capt. Todd "Ike" Keifer, who has published a study on the Navy's plan, said he does not believe the Navy will ever get "any meaningful quantities of cost-competitive biofuels."

"Biofuels sound good, but it turns out that making carbohydrates (biomass) into hydrocarbons (ideal fuels) is a very laborious and wasteful process that is far more costly and much harder on the environment than producing fossil fuels," he said.

Environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel at The Rockefeller University in New York City said biofuels are renewable but not green since they require so much land, fertilizer, pesticide and fuel to produce them.

"There are many ways that the fleet could become truly greener -- through more efficient propulsion, for example," Ausubel wrote in an email to The Associated Press.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Echo device sent private conversation to family's contact: Amazon

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- An "unlikely" string of events prompted Amazon's Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday. Source
  • U of T astronomers observe 'black widow' star with incredible precision

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Imagine walking out to your backyard, setting up a telescope, pointing it at Pluto and being able to see something the size of a flea on its surface. That's the equivalent of what astronomers from the University of Toronto have done. Source
  • 'Black widow' star sighting one of the highest-resolution observations in astronomy history

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Imagine walking out to your backyard, setting up a telescope, pointing it at Pluto and being able to see something the size of a flea on its surface. That's the equivalent of what astronomers from the University of Toronto have done. Source
  • Have a stomach ache? Swallow a sensor

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Diagnosing the cause of stomach pain could soon be as simple as swallowing two small pills that work together to report back about what is happening in your body. This technology uses biosensors, an analytical device that converts a biological response into an electrical signal. Source
  • Forecasters expecting near-normal hurricane season for Atlantic in 2018

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Canadian Hurricane Centre is expecting a "near-normal to above-normal" number of storms in the Atlantic Ocean this year. The United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its seasonal outlook Thursday, predicting 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine of them being hurricanes and one to four being major hurricanes. Source
  • Astronaut David Saint-Jacques part of backup crew in advance of his own liftoff

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's next man in space doesn't have his official liftoff date until the end of this year, but David Saint-Jacques says he's ready if called into action in the coming weeks. Saint-Jacques is serving as a backup to European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is part of a three-person team scheduled to launch from Kazhakstan on June 6. Source
  • Self-driving Uber was aware of pedestrian but didn't stop, probe on fatal Arizona crash finds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The self-driving technology deployed in an Uber which struck and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona recently, noted a pedestrian was on the road, but didn't stop, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says. Source
  • Canadians confused about GM foods, support mandatory labelling: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The vast majority of Canadians believe genetically modified foods should have to be labelled at the grocery store, according to a new study, which a researcher says shows most consumers are confused about the science behind their dinner plates. Source
  • B.C. and N.B. floods a warning of what's to come, climate change researchers say

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Dawn Harp and Lars Androsoff were fully confident flooding didn't threaten their home near southern British Columbia's Kettle River. Then the couple awoke at 1:30 a.m. PT on May 11 to the sound of floodwaters flowing beneath their Grand Forks home's floorboards. Source
  • U.S. forecasters release hurricane and tropical storm predictions

    Tech & Science CBC News
    U.S. government forecasters are releasing their prediction for how many hurricanes and tropical storms they expect to form over Atlantic and Caribbean waters in the next six months. The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1. Source