As a retired Vice Admiral, Navy pilot and fleet commander, I have seen firsthand how ensuring an uninterrupted flow of oil to the United States has tremendous costs and puts our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.
Our country and all of us citizens have paid an enormous cost to maintain an increasingly unsustainable transportation energy model.
Today, as President of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and in my work with the CNA Military Advisory Board, the U.S. National Energy Security Council, and the Energy Future Coalition, I can take a larger role in being part of the solution to this problem. I am personally dedicated to focusing the mission of ACORE on rebuilding America’s energy, economic, environmental and national security.
In the area of biofuels, I see a number of very positive opportunities on the horizon, but today one in particular stands out for the industry: higher mileage standards and biofuels’ role in high-compression engines.
Over the past century, U.S. transportation has been dominated by internal combustion engines, primarily fueled by our unsustainable addiction to oil. The U.S. spends over $350 billion a year for imports to feed this addiction. It threatens our national, energy, economic, environmental and employment security.
Fortunately, revolutionary changes in engine technology and alternative fuels are rapidly advancing. Ethanol and biodiesel have set the foundation for alternative fuels in the U.S., producing over a million barrels of gasoline equivalent a day. Additionally, the biofuels industry is transitioning to the use of waste streams, cellulosic materials and algae, with POET playing a major role in converting crop residues to ethanol.
A key opportunity for biofuels has emerged through higher mileage standards. Automakers are moving toward increased compression ratio engines, which require high-octane fuels. Refiners can boost octane either by increasing volatile additives to provide higher levels of aromatics
(benzene, toluene and xyline – BTX), or by adding alcohols like ethanol and methanol. The comparative cost of boosting octane is about the same for BTX and ethanol.
However, we must look at “fully loaded cost” of using BTX and petroleum:
National and energy security implications from relying on foreign oil imports;
Air pollution from greater ozone and other harmful emissions; and
An unacceptable increase in ultra fine particulates that enter blood streams through breathing, particularly in traffic-congested areas. This is particularly threatening to fetuses and infants consuming contaminated mothers’ milk, which can cause threatening maladies later in life. By also considering the adverse health effects on older generations, research shows that these pollutants cause about $100 billion a year in health care costs.
There is much to favor ethanol and other alcohols over BTX in meeting higher-octane requirements. But, first there is a need for a cultural change in the oil/alcohol relationship. We need to fully leverage the great benefits of increasing our use of biofuels to power America’s transportation.
As a Navy man, I am proud of the Navy and Marine Corps for changing the culture of the Naval Service to embrace energy as an essential component of our force structure along with armaments and human power. Those three power sources are at the center of our national and energy security and at the heart of our determination to enhance America’s environmental and economic security. As president of ACORE, I hope to foster a similar willingness to embrace knowledge-based change in Americans across this great nation.
President, American Council On Renewable Energy
Vice Admiral, US Navy (Ret.)