A Primer on Alternative Transportation Fuels
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY
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A review is undertaken of several approaches to producing alternative transportation fuels using feedstocks that are under the control of the United States. The objective of the review is to provide the non-specialist reader with a general understanding of the several approaches, how they compare regarding process energy efficiency, their individual abilities to provide for national transportation fuel needs, and their associated capital costs. It is noted that, in principle, vehicle missions determine fuel and propulsion plant requirements rather than the other way around. In reality, of course, there is a tradeoff among desired mission capabilities and fuel and propulsion plant technologies. The review results suggest these conclusions about alternative transportation fuels If necessary, the United States can manufacture the transportation fuels it needs. The capital investments needed to manufacture fuels beyond petroleum will be substantial, regardless of the particular alternative fuel selected. In this regard, the steam reformation of methane SMR processes, because of their higher efficiencies and substantially lower capital costs, would seem to warrant special attention. The associated fuels are not carbon free or carbon neutral. The capital investments associated with the manufacture of renewable--carbon free or carbon neutral--fuels will be especially large. Serious commercial investment in alternative fuels, in contrast to standard petroleum-based fuels, will be difficult to obtain as long as low-cost petroleum is available.