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Oct 182010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

Syracuse University today announced a partnership to advance the use of biofuels by the U.S. armed forces as an alternative energy source.

Entrepreneurs John Fox, a 1992 Syracuse graduate, and Wayne Arden have proposed producing biodiesel in Afghanistan as a means to achieve multiple benefits, including reducing risks to American troops and building a new, sustainable economy in the country. University officials said the creation of the new partnership will allow for piloting and determining the economic viability of the recommendations included in their proposal.

With energy demands growing at home bases along with many global deployments creating logistical challenges, the Department of Defense has been working to increase the use of renewable energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuel resources and to achieve “net zero energy” throughout the military. Arden and Fox’s report, “Producing and Using Biodiesel in Afghanistan,” analyzed the latest off-the-shelf solutions that could be implemented to produce biodiesel in Afghanistan that will reduce casualties as well as create new industry for building a stable nation.

“We recognize the extensive research and effort that has been put into developing these recommendations,” Gina Lee-Glauser, vice president for research at Syracuse University, said in a statement. “We believe that these recommendations have the potential to reduce U.S. casualties, and lessen the military’s dependence on petroleum. In the coming weeks, we will be partnering with John Fox and Wayne Arden to evaluate a parallel implementation at one or more U.S. military bases. The purpose of this partnership is to pilot the recommendations and document the economical viability of the proposal. This parallel implementation will help the DOD make further progress in making military bases in the U.S. Net Zero Installations.”

In the report, Arden and Fox highlight five key benefits associated with producing and using biodiesel in Afghanistan:

  • Reduce casualties – A significant percentage of U.S. casualties stem from protecting fuel convoys. The report estimates that the construction of a single, medium-sized biodiesel plant would reduce casualties by four to five soldiers per year.
  • Free up troops for other assignments – By reducing the number of fuel convoys needed, an estimated 120 soldiers each year can be freed up for more critical assignments.
  • Save money – The substitution of biodiesel produced locally in Afghanistan for the importing of expensive petroleum diesel has the potential to save millions or billions of dollars a year. Using $400 per gallon as the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel, a figure the DOD provided Congress in October 2009, the military would save $3.7 billion annually on fuel costs. However, even if the FBCF is only $41 per gallon, the plant has a one-year payback. In the second year of operation the plant would save $90 million and fuel would cost $33.50 per gallon.
  • Challenge the opium trade – Reducing the influence of the opium trade is one of the most difficult challenges in Afghanistan. The biodiesel plant, allowing agricultural specialists to persuade farmers to switch from growing poppy to safflower, could reduce the cultivation of poppy up to 50 percent. This reduction would deny opium revenues to the Taliban, challenge criminal networks, and lower the incidence of corruption related to the drug trade.
  • Create a new industry for Afghanistan – If the first plant is successful in supplying biodiesel to the U.S. military, other plants may be built, further stimulating agriculture in Afghanistan and creating jobs. These plants may be focused on the domestic fuel market, countering the drain that importing petroleum has on Afghanistan’s fragile economy. An export market is also possible since neighboring countries import large quantities of oil.

The report also recommends that United States Agency for International Development fund a study to analyze the creation of an Afghanistan commodities exchange. A commodities exchange would bring greater visibility to Afghanistan biodiesel crops and more generally would strengthen the critical agricultural sector and Afghanistan’s nascent mining sector.