Air Force Will Be Coal-Powered by 2011

AirForce_C17_240Not everyone has the same definition for the term ‘renewable-fuel’.

The United States Air Force is well on their way to becoming coal-powered. On Monday, the USAF carried out a transcontinental test flight using a 50-50 blend of standard jet fuel and coal-based ‘synfuel’.

“The Air Force is taking a leadership role in testing and certifying the use of synthetic fuel in aircraft,” Secretary Wynne said. “We’re working very closely with our Army and Navy colleagues to ensure that this fuel is capable of operating in all of our aircraft. This is especially important because JP-8 military jet fuel is commonly used in the battlefield by the Army and Marines tactical vehicles and generators, as well as our respective aircraft.”

While synthetic fuel has the capacity to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it could also double CO2 emissions produced by military flight. At the time of this writing, synfuel is made via Fischer-Tropsch process from either coal or natural gas to produce a somewhat cleaner burning but extremely greenhouse-gas intensive product.

The Air Force may be underscoring a recently hyped green image, but it seems that economic considerations are largely at play here:

The Defense Department is the largest energy consumer in the United States, racking up an energy bill of $13.6 billion last year, up from $10.9 billion the year before. The military services and other components of the defense establishment consume the equivalent of 340,000 barrels of oil a day, or 1.5 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.

The Air Force hopes to certify the 50-50 synfuel blend for all its aircraft within the next 5 years, making them 50% coal-powered by 2011.

Any way that we could just stockpile a few extra barrels of oil instead?

C-17 uses synthetic fuel blend on transcontinental flight (Dec. 18, 2007)

U.S. Military Bases Going Green (Dec. 17, 2007)

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In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.