The U.S. Navy has developed what it calls a "mean, green riverine machine" -- a 49-foot camouflage gunboat capable of outracing destroyer fleets and powered in part by seaweed.
Swishing around in the vessel's fuel tank is a 50-50 mix of algae-based biofuel and diesel that powers high-performance vessels in a way the military says is indistinguishable from conventional fuels.
The new boat is part of the Navy's goal to boost its use of alternative energy, such as biofuels and nuclear power, to half of its total consumption by the year 2020. Only about 16 percent of the Navy's energy currently comes from nuclear power, and the rest from fossil fuels such as oil. The service consumes about 80,000 barrels of oil a day to fuel all of its vessels.
Sailors conduct maneuvers Oct. 22 aboard Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The boat is powered by an alternative fuel blend of 50 percent algae-based fuels.
All four branches of the U.S. military together consume 90 percent of the total energy used by the American government.
"This is just one step along the way, but it's a history-making step," Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Navy's Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper after testing the new boat at a Norfolk, Va., naval base last week.
The boat did about a mile-long loop, kicking up salt spray as it performed a series of sudden stops, circles and maneuvers. Cullom said Friday's test was the first time any Navy surface vessel powered by biofuel had reached its top speed, 44.5 knots, dubbing it "a mean, green riverine machine."
The boat is designed to be deployed in rivers and marshes and will eventually be used to guard oil installations in the Middle East, The Guardian reported. It's part of the Navy's first green strike force, a group of about 10 ships, submarines and planes that run on a mix of biofuels and nuclear power. They're expected to be developed by 2012 and deployed to the field by 2016.
Last month, the U.S. Navy ordered more than 150,000 gallons of ship and jet fuel from Solazyme, a California company that produces biofuels from algae, The Associated Press reported.
But those fuels are expensive. Last year, the Navy spent $424 per gallon to buy 20,055 gallons of algae-based biofuel from another company. That was a world-record price for fuel at the time, the Marine Corps Times reported.
"Yes, these fuels are expensive," Cullom told Wired magazine. "When you're leading the way on something, it's not gonna be 3 bucks a gallon."
"Our program to 'go green' is about combat capability, first and foremost," he said. "Our energy program strengthens natural security, but it also strengthens national security -- we're not held hostage by any one source."
Source: AOL news