With the price of oil over $100 a barrel and looking like it may go even higher, the United States Air Force is feeling the squeeze. In 2003, they paid $2.9 billion to buy about 3 billion gallons of fuel. In 2007, it cost them $5.8 billion to buy only 2.6 billion gallons of fuel. This year, the cost will be even higher. In fact, every time the cost of a barrel of oil rises by $10, it costs the Air Force another $600 million.
The skyrocketing price of oil and the desire to be free of imported oil, is driving the Air Force to look for alternatives. Since the United States has about a quarter of the world's supply of coal, they are looking to convert their planes to fly on a 50-50 mixture of liquified coal and petroleum-based fuel. Liquifying coal was once considered too expensive a process, but with the price of oil so high, it is now feasible to consider.
The Air Force has already tested the fuel on their big planes -- the B52 bombers and the C17 transports. Now they're ready to test it on the F22 fighters. They hope to have their 6000 plane fleet converted by 2011.
This is sure to raise some concern among environmental groups, and frankly, I'm not sure what I think about it. It would be a good idea if the fuel could be made and used without adding to the already-too-high carbon emissions. The thing is, that has yet to be proven.
Weaning ourselves off foreign oil and petroleum-based products is a good idea. We just need to make sure the alternative is not as bad as or worse than the problem.