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Posts Tagged ‘biofuel’

SpiroFlo analyzes the Navy’s $26 a gallon biofuel scandal.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus plans to have half of the fleet on alternative fuels by 2020.

As a step towards that goal, Secretary Mabus introduced a “Great Green Fleet” — five ships that run on a 50/50 blend of conventional fuel and alternative biofuel (as it does not require engine modifications). Since the biofuel runs on algae, chicken fat and seeds, there’s  hope that the biofuel will also help with that classic reliance-on-foreign-oil conundrum.

There’s just one problem: The biofuel currently costs over seven times more per gallon than conventional fuel ($26 a gallon compared to $3.60 a gallon).

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark Rankin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Does this biofuel make me look green?

As this green fleet includes a destroyer, tanker and an aircraft carrier, these aren’t exactly small hybrid vehicles daintily sipping on that fuel either. As mentioned in a previous blog, it seems as though you can run a vehicle on just about anything; it’s simply a matter of whether it’s economical on a large scale. At $26 a gallon, clearly this biofuel isn’t economical, at least not yet.

However, In the 1980s, there was a scandal over the Navy buying $640 toilet seats. On closer analysis, it was revealed that the high cost largely came from retrofitting the parts on a small number of out-of-production  P-3C Orion fleet ships. As the molds and equipment needed to be recreated for a relatively small number of installs, the costs naturally went up.

In the same way, this $26 a gallon cost comes from providing only one day’s worth of biofuel. Secretary Mabus hopes that as the Pentagon supports and expands the biofuel use, the cost per gallon will go down.

In the mean time, Republicans (including Rep. Randy Forbes and war veteran Sen. John McCain) believe that biofuels will always cost more, that President Obama’s alternative energy initiatives are too costly for mainstream use/taxpayer funds, and that it’s wrong for the military to help build green technologies in this manner.

What no one has (publicly) stated is the obvious: The Navy, like any military branch, is tasked to defend its country and, in the event of war, use the means necessary to ensure victory. War is a cold, brutal affair, and if there’s one thing the current U.S. deficit has taught us, it’s costly, too. If and when there’s a greater need for warships, the ideal options — especially easily dismissed, expensive luxury options — will fall away or fall in line with the grueling requirements of war.

Finally, on the off-chance the biofuel does stick around during wartime, no one is going to feel good about being Earth conscious while people are killing each other.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Cheese Mobile: Not quite what I had in mind

SpiroFlo analyzes the terms that make up the environmental world—the cliché, the misunderstood, and the “don’t tell your mama” variety—and how they play in today’s society. With companies using “green” as an automatic product selling point, how does the buzzword hold up?

Did you know you can power a lamp (to a dull glow) off a potato? You can even use a tomato, though during a jury-rigged power surge, I think I’d rather have French fries than ketchup splatter all over the room. I’m sure you can make a rug out of dried fruit, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be on sale at IKEA any time soon, because when it comes to making an economical decision, the green option doesn’t even rank in the top options for most businesses (and frankly, most consumers). Throw in the cost, quality and morality of a product (among other factors) and green options can often feel more like a compromise than a top choice.

A friend of mine felt compelled to eat only free range meat, but with the high cost of eating healthy, he compromised his values and budget into becoming a vegetarian. Upon moving to the Sudan to open an orphanage, his diet took a back seat to the reality of eating what was available. (While diet choices aren’t exactly a green philosophy, there are correlations between the two.)

With this in mind, I think it’s time to admit that simply because a technology is green doesn’t mean it’s inherently good (or even good enough), because being green alone isn’t enough.

I know the guy who regularly touts his not so socially acceptable green product(s), much to the chagrin of most people. He drives a truck that runs on grease that he gets free from restaurants. While he’s not increasing foreign oil dependency, you can still hear and smell his truck coming from a couple of blocks away. His vehicle is green (sorta), but for most people, that’s not enough, for the same reason the other characteristics of a product also usually aren’t enough on their own: Most decisions are not made off one factor. We absorb all the aspects — the pros, cons and limitations — and usually decide based on what’s feasible, not just what’s desired. Then again, we all know people going into debt over stuff they can’t afford (usually shopping sprees, expensive homes and cars, etc.), but I’ve yet to meet a person who got into financial trouble because they cared about the environment too much.

With all the trend-of-the-week gimmick cars, it seems like you can run a vehicle on just about anything—wine, algae, coffee—whether it runs efficiently or not. (I’m waiting for the day when I watch someone fuel their morning commute and their caffeine kick from the same tank.) Not all the cars that run on alternative fuels are held together by duct tape and the budget-crunched hope of a better tomorrow either. Some are actually quite sporty, but with the high-price tag on these options (see electric cars), it doesn’t yet feel like there’s a middle ground that works for mainstream society on many green products. As a result, thus far, most green niches have been held back by their large limitations. If that’s the case, saying something is green isn’t quite the trump card companies are pretending it is.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with a 3.5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) 

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