Bio Jet Fuel — the Real $600 Toilet Seat?
The custom-designed $600 toilet seat for P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft — often depicted as the epitome of government waste — is an urban legend.
The “seat” was actually a plastic molding that fitted over the entire seat, tank, and toilet assembly, for which the contractor charged the Navy $100 apiece.
However, in the subsidy-driven world of biofuels, government can flush lots of your tax dollars down the gurgler.
DOD’s Quadrenniel Defense Review Report (QDR) crows that in 2009, the Navy “tested an F/A-18 engine on camelina-based biofuel” (pp. 87-88). Camelina is a non-edible plant in the mustard family.
On Earth Day 2010, an F/A-18 taking off from the Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland, became the first aircraft to “demonstrate the performance of a 50-50 blend of camelina-based biojet fuel and traditional petroleum-based jet fuel at supersonic speeds,” enthuses Renewable Energy World.Com.
At the event, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said: “It’s important to emphasize, especially on Earth Day, the Navy’s commitment to reducing dependence on foreign oil as well as safeguarding our environment. Our Navy, alongside industry, the other services and federal agency partners, will continue to be an early adopter of alternative energy sources.”
Renewable Energy World also reports that the Navy ordered 200,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel for 2009-2010 and has an option to purchase another 200,000 gallons during 2010-2012. Sounds impressive, but let’s put those numbers in perspective. In just three months in peacetime, the flight crew of a single vessel — the USS NASSAU, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship — flew more than 2,800 hours and burned over 1 million gallons of jet fuel.
Neither Renewable Energy World nor the QDR mentions how much camelina-based jet fuel costs. Hold on to your (toilet) seat! According to today’s ClimateWire (subscription required), the price is $65.00 per gallon. That’s about 30 times more expensive than commercial jet fuel.
Those who wonder why government can’t just mandate a transition to a “beyond petroleum” future should contemplate those numbers.