RAND throws one over DoD’s “green fuels” initiatives:
The authors conclude that DoD goals for alternative fuel use in tactical weapon systems should be based on potential national benefits because the use of alternative fuels offers no direct military benefit over the use of conventional petroleum-derived fuels. Consequently, DoD and Congress should decide whether defense appropriations should continue to support advanced technology for producing alternative liquid fuels. The authors also find that the prospects for commercial production of appreciable amounts of alternative fuels suitable for military applications within the next decade are highly uncertain, that current efforts by the services to test and certify alternative fuels are far outpacing commercial development, and that certain efforts are directed at fuels with a very limited potential for sustainable production.
DoD is the single largest user of petroleum products in the world, and it has recently been a part of the department’s policy to investigate ways to reduce dependence upon foreign sources. RAND has essentially come out and said, “Good idea, and all, but you’re wasting a lot of money.”
On the flip side, it’s not inherently bad for DoD to outpace commercial development: Many of the gains made in aerospace over the last century would not have come out of purely peacetime motivations, and with processed oil still cheaper by the gallon than bottled water, there’s little commercial incentive for R&D investments. Nor is it necessarily awful for to DoD to sort the wheat from the alternative fuel chaff, so long as the department is doing so more out of a rigorous approach to eventual alternatives than as a “we get it” public relations campaign.