Besides the cost and availability of biofuels, there is another major problem on which the Navy is silent. Biofuels are dangerous to military equipment.
In a 2010 study, Rice University professor Pedro Alvarez suggested more study of the effects of biofuels powering ships. He found a “high potential for corrosion on their tanks” because of the bacteria in biofuels.
An engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory agrees with Alvarez. The University of Oklahoma’s Jason S. Lee studied biodiesel on metal and found that, “the blending of biodiesel with traditional diesel resulted in the first known demonstration of localized corrosion of aluminum in the fuel layer itself.”
The Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has raised similar concerns. A study there in 2010 found that, “Dissolved water in biofuels can … contribute to corrosion and stress corrosion cracking. Stress corrosion cracking of mild steel may be of particular concern with ethanol.”
Although the Navy did not reply to requests from Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA), a member of the Armed Services Committee, for comments about corrosion, the Air Force quietly decided to test biofuels before risking costly and dangerous damage to jet engines.
Senator John McCain told National Journal Daily that, “adopting a green agenda for national defense of course is a terrible misplacement of priorities.” He is right. In the interests of national security the Navy should drop biofuels and instead ask the White House and Congress to approve development of America’s abundant and untapped oil resources.
The first voyage of The Great Green Fleet must be its last.
Chet Nagle is a graduate of the Naval Academy, a former Defense Department official and author of the book “Iran Covenant.”