Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Neo Conservative Oil-Military-Industrial Complex -II

How alternative are alternative fuels for military?

In the US military, oil has been the traditional fuel for mobility while natural gas and electric power supplied by a variety of land-based systems for installations.

While petroleum based fuels seem continue to be the major source for military mobility fleet, the gradual introduction of new materials, alternative fuels, systems, and capabilities and more efficient technology to improve energy usage and reduce energy dependency is gaining a momentum and popularity.

For example, DRS Technologies has developed a hybrid-electric propulsion system for military humvee trucks, a truck with the capability of generating electricity and reduce the need for generators. A conventional humvee produces 2,000 watts of power. The hybrid-electric vehicle generates 75,000 watts of power, and it can achieve a peak of 10 megawatts of pulse power. (See, Hybrid Electric Vehicles: Battlefield ‘Islands of Power?, Defense Watch, September 2006). But the article does not discuss the limitations of batteries in Humvees.

There are also diesel-electric hybrids. David Axe (in his article “Technology limitations stall military hybrids,” in Defense Watch, September 2006) argues that “after more than a decade of research and development, and despite much recent hype, military hybrids are still years away from mass production,” and the Army does not have a current hybrid program that targets fielding.

In May/June 2006 issue of Defense Technology International, Michael Durniak (“Going Green”) draws a rather dark picture for hybrid (diesel-) electric armored vehicles. “After millions of dollars and years of research, the technology is not quite ready for prime time. There’s been more ink spilled over hybrid technology than fuel saved,” he says.

Because the real usage condition of the tested vehicles would be cruising at a steady speed over a long distance (convoy missions), which is not a great advantage for hybrid vehicles. Moreover the Army prefers vehicles that can haul and power electronic equipment, so fuel efficiency in fact is surely not a great wish.

Also, size-weight due to armor (cooling system which is a vital element of hybrid technology adds more weight)-volume-strength are extremely important characteristics of military vehicles.

“Across the Defense Department, there are around 30 hybrid-electric demonstrator vehicles in some form of testing…But all have failed to achieve the combination of performance, toughness, price and utility that the military demands of its vehicles,” says Axe.

In addition, as Scott Buchanan reported in his article appeared in the Joint Force Quarterly (Energy and Force Transformation) of the top 10 battlefield guzzlers, only 2 are combat vehicles—the Abrams tank and the Apache helicopter. The others carry fuel and supplies. He adds that “over half of the fuel transported to the battlefield is consumed by support vehicles, not vehicles engaged in frontline combat. “

Whatever is developed for commercial purposes does not necessarily mean it can be used for military purpose. But the desire is there. That is why Pentagon will continue spending a lot of money for gadget like military device. It does so for F-22A, it is doing for hybrids today, and will do so in the future. Yes, money spent in developing and testing new devices and will help in advancement in technological progress. I wonder how many of those will go beyond demonstration.

LA Times run an article on 15 September 2006 (Air Force to Try Out a New Kind of Jet Fuel) arguing that synthetic alternative could help cut costs for Pentagon. It was all about the test of a 50-50 mix of conventional JP-8 with natural gas derived synthetic fuel on a half decade old B-52 (known as big ugly fat fellow). The fuel will be filled in two of the B-52s eight tanks. Many articles have been published on that hype. But none of them says that Pentagon wants to get rid of B-52s, and wish to replace them with B-2.

Biofuels will not be a solution in the short to mid term. The biofuel test on B-52 is just an illusion and is nothing more than a political move.[1] Try running it on the new acquired aircraft, or on all existing air fleet, tanks, armors and navy with no or slight technical modification in the engines, it will not work. Then calculate the cost.

I am in the same club with Colonel Fullerton who do not think that Air Force will be able to go green. He argues that “USAF aircraft in the twenty-first century will burn jet fuel, just as they did in the last half of the twentieth century,” because “the transition to new energy sources will take an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary path.”

He concludes that “Even if new technologies enable hydrogen- or nuclear-powered aircraft, they will remain small in number.” Because the U.S. aircraft inventory “is simply too large and expensive for the taxpayer to replace. Fifty years from now, the Air Force will probably do many things very differently, but if flying is still part of our mission, we will certainly notice the prominent smell of jet fuel around our hangars and runways.”

Nuclear power is also seen a savor. It is already used for aircraft carriers and submarines — about 80 of the Navy's 286 ships. But nuclear is not seen an economic fuel for destroyers, cruisers and smaller vessels until oil costs about $200 a barrel. (source)

A Neo-Conservative Oil-Military-Industrial Complex

Yes, America is “addicted to oil”. So is the US military. And as long as the Pentagon continues expanding with Bush’s “war on terror” the oil-military-industrial complex will the major winner as I summarized in an earlier post.

What is the US military-industrial complex without oil?

General MacArthur described the foundation in 1957: “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear, kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor, with the cry of grave national emergency.”

And Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about it in his farewell address on January 17, 1961: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” which George Washington laid out in his farewell address in 1796: “overgrown military establishments are under and form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican liberty.”

As long as the US wants to remain a superpower, oil will continue to be a vital commodity not only for the non-negotiable American way of life (which could be called as insanity) but also for neo-Conservative Oil-Military-Industrial Complex.

Yes, this is a neo-COMIC situation!

Mussolini had put it in a context long time ago: “Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is a merge of state and corporate power.” Just think of the number of executives from the rank of major or above employed by the neo-COMIC.

see also PART 1

[1] But “Although the Fischer-Tropsch fuel demonstration flight was successfully completed, it was cut short due to a mechanical issue with the B-52's left wing-tip landing gear, which was unrelated to the alternative fuel test. The aircraft landed safely without incident,” said the Air Force Press Release. Another interesting point is that the same Air Force press release first claimed that “The flight test involved running two of the bomber's engines on a synthetic fuel, made from a 50-50 blend of traditional crude oil-based fuel and a Fischer-Tropsch fuel derived from coal.” That mistake was corrected on 22 September 2006. But others which copied the AF story did not. Example #1.


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