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

  • Indonesia survey shows massive coral death from cruise ship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia says nearly 19,000 square metres of coral reef was damaged by a foreign cruise ship that ran aground in the pristine waters of Raja Ampat in West Papua province earlier this month. Source
  • Ground-breaking bat cave discovery gives Alberta researchers baseline in fight against deadly disease

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The recent discovery of a large cave or hibernacula in northern Alberta where hundreds of bats have found hibernating is giving researchers a baseline measurement in the fight against the deadly white-nose syndrome. "Up until now, within the bulk of Alberta, the large hibernacula we have found are in the Rocky Mountains, so it's nice to find that this is the third-largest known hibernacula in the province," Dave Critchley of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bat Caver program told The…
  • New categories of dinosaur family tree proposed by scientists

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some of the best-known dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus rex and Brontosaurus, may be headed for a divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Scientists on Wednesday proposed a radical overhaul of the dinosaur family tree first laid out in 1888, concluding after an analysis of 75 species that the meat-eating group that includes T. Source
  • Lip-reading program more accurate than humans could help hearing-impaired

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Lip-reading is a notoriously tricky task. But researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. have created a computer program called Watch, Attend and Spell to do just that. They claim their lip-reading algorithm is more accurate than human professionals. Source
  • Arctic sea ice at record low for third straight year

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Arctic sea ice is at a record low for the third straight year. The measurements from the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center say the ice reached its maximum extent on March 7. Source
  • Waste not on World Water Day: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    This year's theme for the United Nations World Water Day is, "Why Waste Water?" As the world demands more and more of our most precious resource, and sources seem to be drying up, the UN says there is a huge untapped reservoir that could help to meet the demand: wastewater. Source
  • Google Maps to allow others to track your movements

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Maps users will soon be able to broadcast their movements to friends and family -- the latest test of how much privacy people are willing to sacrifice in an era of rampant sharing. Source
  • Earthquakes could cause Los Angeles area to sink abruptly: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Big One may be overdue to hit California, but scientists near Los Angeles have found a new risk for the area during a major earthquake: abrupt sinking of land, potentially below sea level. The last known major quake on the San Andreas fault occurred in 1857, but three quakes over the last 2,000 years on nearby faults made ground just outside Los Angeles city limits sink as much as one metre, according to a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports. Source
  • Rusty-patched bumblebee first of species declared endangered in continental U.S.

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The rusty-patched bumblebee became the first officially endangered bee species in the continental U.S. on Tuesday, overcoming objections from some business interests and a last-minute delay ordered by the Trump administration. One of many bee types that have suffered steep population declines, the rusty-patched has disappeared from about 90 per cent of its range in the past 20 years. Source
  • Apple cuts prices on lower-end iPads, releases red iPhones

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK - Apple is cutting prices on two iPad models and introducing red iPhones, but the company held back on updating its higher-end iPad Pro tablets. A much-speculated 10.5-inch iPad Pro didn't materialize, nor did new versions of existing sizes in the Pro lineup, which is aimed at businesses and creative professionals. Source