I just ran across a report by Wired, published on September 28th, called “Green Berets Prefer Biodiesel“. I am thus happy to correct myself and say my earlier post on this subject, as well as the follow-up, were a bit hasty. Wired says that the military has been steadily increasing bio-diesel use for several years now.
This is great news for several reasons. The military move towards diesel motorcycles may quickly prove the viability of a robust yet small consumer engine. In addition, the fact that the Army, Navy, US Postal Service, Department of Agriculture, and NASA are all looking at bio-diesel means a more acceptable alternative to petroleum-based fuels could be on the precipice of mass adoption in a country that has been virtually blind to the importance of alternative fuels.
“That’s important to the military’s role as a public citizen, says [fleet manager for Marine Corps vehicles in Camp Pendleton] Funk. ‘We operate our vehicles on the public highways,’ he says. ‘Biodiesel sends a signal to the American public that we’re working to keep the air clean, and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.'”
Admittedly, while it is nice to hear fleet managers give a kinder-gentler environmental message, the realist/security practitioner in me says bio-diesel is a more secure and sustainable fuel for domestic as well as foreign troop deployments. The article even mentions that waste oil from the mess halls is now used to fuel the transport vehicles. No matter how you slice it, bio-diesel is the fuel that just keeps giving — engines run longer (better lubricity) as well as cleaner (less smoke) and can take just about any fat/oil you can scrounge up, which leads to far less vulnerability in storage and transit. It stands to reason, therefore, that special forces would go this route given the obvious reduction in vulnerabilities compared to traditional petroleum supply-chain and storage.
Just imagine if consumer-grade Diesel engines today had half as much development and innovation effort put into them as other engines (like the new Corvette Z06 powerplant). I look forward to a diesel-hybrid in the (near?) future for the ultimate in efficiency and performance without the inherent security risks of petroleum.