September 11, 2007:
Department of Defense is spending a lot of time and money developing
alternative fuels for military use. The idea is not so much to replace current
dependency on oil as to have a "cushion" to fall back on if the price of oil
continues high or spikes. Thus a commercially marginal alternative to oil could
be of value. There are some approaches that are commercially viable. There are
also political benefits for some of these alternatives. Pig manure and chicken
guts conversion technologies, for example, would please the green-types and the
people who own the pig- and chicken-farms.
But the most practical
technology is one pioneered by Germany, during World War II, and South Africa
while under a pre-1990s embargo. This is the conversion of coal to liquid fuels
(diesel and gasoline). The United States has the largest coal reserves on the
planet. The Department of Defense is the consumer of oil based fuels in the
world. The largest consumer, the U.S. Air Force, has spends over $10 million a
day on fuel.