Some critics say making fuel from algae is too resource-intensive
Efforts by the U.S. military to adopt biofuels are under fire from critics who say the expensive technology is unlikely to yield useful results, the Los Angeles Times reports.
"This is really a house of cards," said Ike Kiefer, a faculty member at the U.S. Air Force Air War College, who studies military fuel purchases.
"When you look at the absolute limits of what is possible, it doesn't work.
"This is not a question of waiting for another generation of technology."
Biofuel used last year to power the U.S. Navy's "green fleet" was said to have cost $26 a gallon, much more than conventional fuel.
Critics also point to a 2011 report commissioned by the Pentagon which found that "there is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels," but the U.S. has nevertheless continued to provide millions of dollars to private companies to support their development.
"We don't want to find ourselves with our backs against the wall in some future crisis where the availability and price of petroleum-based fuels limits all our options and makes them unattractive," said Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and the environment.
Ike Kiefer, Faculty Member, U.S. Air Force Air War College
This is really a house of cards
"This is something we can't not do."
Critics say growing and processing algae, wood chips, and other biomass requires large amounts of energy and other resources, while efforts to process waste into fuel have been unsuccessful.
But the Pentagon argues that paying above-market prices can provide a way to jump-start an industry, citing the Navy's use of high-priced U.S. steel in the 1890s.
U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has said the military must focus on alternative energy to guard against the potential effects of oil price shocks and there is "absolutely clear and overwhelmingly compelling evidence that these efforts are vital to our national security."