Monday, July 23, 2007

Report: Air Force pushes for synthetic fuel, sets goal of 50% use by 2016

Above: An F-16 from the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Balad Air Base, Iraq, gets fuel from a KC-135 in May.

As gas prices and environmental concerns rise, the Air Force may finally be ready for nontraditional fuel.

The largest U.S. fuel consumer — 2.6 billion gallons burned in 2006 — has long sought alternatives, but only in the past few years have need and market forces allowed the synthetic fuel business to move beyond the realm of the boondoggle.

Billionaire Richard Branson has signed up to work with aerospace giant Boeing on synthetic fuels and reducing carbon emissions. Fledgling companies are dotting the developing world with alternative fuel factories.

At the Paris Air Show in June, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey challenged existing fuel refineries and budding alternative energy companies to race each other to produce an efficient synthetic fuel that can be used by both commercial and defense aviation.

They want all Air Force aircraft certified to run on synthetic fuel by 2010, and they want to actually fly them — at least those in the U.S. — on 50 percent synthetics by 2016.

That would mean about 800 million gallons of nonpetroleum-based fuels consumed by the Air Force per year, said William Anderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.

Read the rest at Air Force Times

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