No Coal-Fired Bombers

Alternative fuel plans running on empty

The Air Force is by far the world’s largest customer of aviation fuel, spending about $6 billion a year on more than 3 billion gallons — nearly all of it from foreign sources.

However, I’ve noted previously that the USAF’s experimentation with coal-derived jet fuel cannot grow beyond the experimentation stage due to environmental standards passed in 2007.

A different program based on jet fuel from natural gas has also met resistance because of environmental concerns and also because it isn’t currently a money-maker for producers. Oil will have to be $120 to $140 a barrel for the synthetic production to be profitable, and apparently no one believes that prices will get back up there.

FWIW, Murdoc thinks it should be required that capability to produce this fuel in significant quantities be prepared, even if it isn’t run wide open. If we get to a point where we NEED this fuel to keep planes in the air, it will be too late to start building a plant.


  1. The process of making synthetic fuels was developed during and right after WWII. Too bad we did not keep the plant in operation. Way too much interference by “big”oil then. I gree, build the plant.

  2. I once surveyed the available technologies for a talk I gave. The two that gave usable fuel easiest with minimum installed plant went through these steps:-

    (1.) Ferment Butyric acid from carbohydrates (from crops).

    (2a.) Decarboxylate (strip out the CO2 from) the butyric acid with soda lime to get biopropane, making and regenerating the soda lime using coal or nuclear energy or whatever.

    (2b.) Decarboxylate the butyric acid with Kolbe Electrolysis to get biohexane, using coal or nuclear energy or whatever.

    These aren’t renewable fuels, since only the feedstock is renewable, and even that would need reworking farm equipment etc. to run off gasifiers burning crop waste. But the biopropane could run ground vehicles with IC engines that were converted to LPG, and the biohexane could run gas turbines directly. Unfortunately biohexane can’t run IC engines directly as it has a poor octane rating; there is a further process that would convert it to Dimethylbutane, but that needs serious chemical engineering to achieve on any scale. The point about biopropane and biohexane is that they don’t need massive set up of production facilities, just lots of inputs (renewable and non-renewable).

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