Given the recent growth in the production of North American petroleum resources it can be argued that US energy imports are no longer a national security issue and that energy independence has been attained. At the very least, the risks of energy starvation the US faced in the 1970s and 1980s have been greatly diminished.

Apart from national security issues, there are separate military fuels issues that have recently been raised by groups with military ties. They contend that the U.S. military would be better off if the fuels that they use contained more ethanol (made in the US, naturally). Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets said, “The RFS is a military issue. Our message is simple, Don’t mess with the RFS.” He then went on to say that relying strictly on fossil fuels for use in military vehicles during combat is a disadvantage. Soltz mentioned a solider being killed delivering fuel.

Soltz seems to ignore the fact that renewable fuels would still have to be delivered to the battlefield, presumably in trucks driven by soldiers. If anything, the risks associated with delivering ethanol-blended fuels to the battlefield would be increased since even more truck deliveries would be needed to compensate for ethanol’s lower energy content. It seems like the military should value energy density more than renewable content.

We do know that leaders that are actually in the military are seeking to encourage the development of “drop-in” renewable fuels. Drop-in fuels’ properties are indistinguishable from petroleum fuels, so that they are fungible and may be readily blended with fuels in the existing supply chain. This makes sense for a military that purchases fuels around the world. Successful development and commercialization of drop-in fuels technologies is uncertain and not even necessary following the boom in U.S. oil production.

In any case, RFS-mandated ethanol production is unsuited to meeting U.S. military needs.

Jeff Hazle

Posted by Jeff Hazle

Jeff Hazle is the former Senior Director of Refining Technology for AFPM. To learn more about AFPM, visit AFPM.org.