With the navy’s move shifting toward newer and greener fuel bases, it’s clear that the new fleet’s primary concerns list fuel among their top priorities. And now a ship running off of algae promises to be one of the most effective and interesting looking steps toward a military that not only protects the people of its nation but can utilize resources from almost any source, even growing its own fuel onboard or harvesting it from the sea. The move is part of a cooperative to make the fleets entirely independent of fuel by the year 2020.
Listed among the possibilities for fuel sources in the year 2020 are nuclear reactors to power ships, solar panels to be used as backup and supplementary generators, and a new development – algae laced fuels. The fuel currently being used relies on 50% algae and 50% diesel fuel. The emissions have been hailed as being far less toxic and unlike ethanol, the fuel does not require a massive burning off of food crops in order to sustain it. The claim that the emissions are less toxic than ethanol may be misleading as the term “toxic” does not necessarily mean lower carbon emissions, but the move is certainly a step toward a more sustainable and economically intelligent military.
The ship was first tested the 22nd of October during a training exercise involving several ships in a wargame-like scenario. And the exercise has been hailed largely as a huge success. Is this the military of the future? Can we expect a green military concerned with its environment as much as it is with victory?
The development is not, however, motivated entirely by ecological interest alone. In fact, the military in producing this algae driven fuel is in fact making a very intelligent tactical decision as well. As fuel supplies are a concern in the United States, a lack of fuel or requiring fuel resources to be stockpiled and stored away may grind a military force to a halt. If the fuel supply were disrupted in any large way, it could rush military forces in a predictable and tactically unsound way toward supply lines in an attempt to retake them. But if the military were to run exclusively off of power sources that were easily replaced and even grown on the ships themselves this could drop the costs and the supply chain almost entirely from the equation.
But it’s not quite the holy grail of military technologies just yet as development still must be made for growing and processing the fuel. At the moment with the systems in place the algae based fuel systems can cost up to $23,320 per 55-gallon container. And if this sounds outrageous, keep in mind it is only $24 per gallon over the current cost of diesel. While the diesel itself is relatively cheap, its transportation requires such a large cost that in just a few years this and other technologies may actually save the military money in the long run in addition to being tactically superior.