The United States Air Force has been developing and testing new synthetic
fuels. Why would the Air Force be looking into such fuels? The answer is that
these new fuels will be much less reliant on less-than-stable sources. This is
not a minor detail. If armies marched on their stomachs in Napoleon's time,
modern mechanized armies - relying on tanks, planes, helicopters, and trucks -
are marching on their fuel supplies.
fuel situation in the latter stages of World War II is a classic example of how
modern armies are vulnerable to disruptions of their fuel supplies. In the 1944
Ardennes offensive, German plans hinged on the capture of American fuel dumps.
By the end of the war, the Luftwaffe was not even able to amount a hundred
sorties a day, due to a shortage of fuel.
new fuels being tested on the B-52 come from the Fischer-Tropsch process. This
method is often used to get useable liquid fuels from coal or other
non-oil-based fuels. First developed in the early 1940s, this technique was
used, late in World War II, by Nazi Germany to get fuel for its tanks, planes,
and other vehicles. South Africa also used this process to meet its energy
needs while it was under economic sanctions in the 1980s.
does this alternate energy mean for the United States? It has nearly 250
billion tons of coal - almost the total of the next two largest countries,
Russia and China (271 billion tons total). That is the basis for a lot of
synthetic fuel. Natural gas is another source - and the United States has 204
trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. In addition to this, there are
reported estimates of shale deposits containing 1.8 trillion barrels of oil.
is, in and of itself, significant fuel reserves. In a very real sense, the
United States, but pursuing synthetic fuels will have great benefits. If these
tests pay off, the United States could find itself better able to train its
forces stateside. This will only enhance the advantage the United States will
have. - Harold C. Hutchison (email@example.com)