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Friedman Wrong Again

January 17, 2011

In his New York Times article, Friedman extols the virtue of how the Department of Defense is going “green”. He begins by complimenting the Marines for evaluating a forward operating base using solar and wind. He describes the attacks on fuel convoys and how we suffer casualties, trying to defend fuel trucks. He infers that going “green” in Afghanistan will save lives.

The effort to use LEDs and solar power in forward operating bases is worth trying, and I hope we see an unbiased analysis when the test is over. I hope the experiment works. It might cut some diesel fuel from having to be shipped to Afghanistan, but the vast majority of fuel is used for vehicles and helicopters. Here is a picture of the experimental base as shown in the DOD report on sustainability.

Friedman extols all the attempts by the Navy and Air force to use biofuels. Tests have been successful, but why impose an added set of fuels on the military services?

Friedman, of course, says it’s necessary to control global warming, with “Big Oil and Big Coal” preventing Congress from establishing cap and trade. He infers that it’s necessary to use biofuels to keep us from being dependent on “foreign oil”.

In fact, we have ample supplies of oil to take care of all of our DOD needs. Biofuels might reduce our use of foreign oil by a tiny amount. Interestingly, most of our “foreign” oil is imported from Canada and Mexico, and they aren’t the “Petro Dictators” Friedman refers to.

In addition, trying to make the Navy use biofuels has other costs.

Incorporating the use of biofuels adds to the cost of the equipment.

Adding another type of fuel to the mix makes it even more difficult to be certain we have the right fuel where and when the Navy needs it. How many different tankers will we need to provide underway replenishment at sea? The logistics problem will be severe and costly.

I doubt we have sufficient capacity (in the form of land area) to produce enough biofuels to supply the Navy and the other military services.

Algae, for example, are still experimental after decades of research.

The great “green fleet” using biofuels is a waste of money that could be spent on buying needed military equipment, doing research on a missile defense system or increasing the pay of our service men and women.

Incongruously, Friedman refers to the USS Makin Island, with its combined hybrid gas turbine/electric motor propulsion system. It could be that Friedman is unaware of how ships work, but gas turbines and electric drives have been around for years, and the idea of slow versus full speed isn’t new either. Ships have supplied stand-by power while in port ever since sail was abandoned. Every Engineering Officer or Chief Engineer has always made best use of fuel by going at a slower speed or using only part of the propulsion system, depending on the mission.

The USS Makin Island is an excellent ship, but it doesn’t prove that biofuels are good. The Navy can be proud of this highly efficient ship that uses the latest technology to improve efficiency.

Here is a link to its web site:

The effort to go “green” to avoid global warming is harming our national defense when we don’t have the money to fully fund DOD.

Friedman may be a good writer, but he has a fixation on global warming. His image of fuel trucks burning on the road may be emotionally useful, but lends itself to demagoguery.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 6:52 pm

    The idea Friedman has of installing wind turbines and solar power to divert fuel transport in wartime is pretty ridiculous.

    Biofuels on the other hand are an entirely different story, for example, biodiesel requires absolutely no modification to any military vehicle that currently burns diesel, period. The problem is supply and algae biodiesel may never deliver but why not produce as much as possible from available resources? Its American made and carbon nuetral, both good for the country.

    As for our naval fleet, they should all switch to thorium based nuclear technologies to provide propulsion. Thorium reactors consume waste fuel from other reactors while producing 1/10 of 1% the waste, its almost as abundant as lead, we need 1/200 the amount of fuel rods as uranium, and it is easily adaptable to current nuclear technologies. Win, win, win

    Regardless of where the oil comes from we need to be energy independent, shipping out $700,000,000,000.00 of Americans hard earned money to foreign companies for energy is a big no no. Thorium, biofuels, super grid technologies, solar and wind (implemented correctly) can lead our nation to being an energy exporter in time.

    This is the direction we need to head.

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