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Forget Your Silver Bullet

Bill Moore, EV World
US Task Force finds unconventional fuels from tar sands to shale oil will make little contribution to future energy needs.

The United States’ Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels ( has made public its findings and recommendations on the futARTHUR MAX, AssocARTHUR MAX, Associated Pressated Pressbe played by five non-petroleum energy sources found in America: shale oil, heavy crude, tar sands, coal-to-liquids and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using captured carbon dioxide.

In three volumes, the Task Force, made up of the U.S. Secretaries of Energy, Interior nd Defense, along with the governors of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Kentucky, takes a comprehensive look at the potential contribution these, heretofore under-utilized resources can make in supplementing the nation’s declining petroleum production. They conclude that even under the most aggressive development scenario, these resources could produce about 7.6 million barrels a day of synthetic liquid fuel by 2035. Ander current, business-as-usual, conditions — and assuming a whole host of issues from socioeconomic to technical can be resolved — unconventional fuels might add 2.3 mbld by 2035, about one-tenth of what America currently consumes.

While there are no known proponents of “peak oil” to be found among the senior task force members, nonetheless, Volume One of “America’s Strategic Unconventional Fuels” reads as if it might have been produced by the Association of the Study of Peak Oil. There are references to M. King Hubbert and energy return on energy invested (EROI).
(4 October 2007)

Lawmakers to Pentagon: Plan for climate change

Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive
The Defense authorization bill approved by the Senate this week would require the Pentagon to consider the effects of climate change on military capabilities, facilities and missions.

The House version of the bill (H.R. 1585) contains similar language, which means the provision likely will become law.

The measure requires military planners to assess the risks of projected climate change on current and future missions, update defense plans based on those assessments and develop the capabilities needed to reduce future impacts.

In addition, the provision specifically directs military planners to consider the effects of climate change when developing the next quadrennial defense review, national security strategy and national defense strategy. The Defense secretary is to use the mid-range projections of the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or more recent “mid-range consensus climate projections” if they are available.

…Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command and a member of the study group, said earlier this year that food and water shortages are weakening governments and fueling conflicts, especially in Africa. Such changes are important beyond basic humanitarian concerns, he said.

“We import more oil from Africa than from the Middle East, and that share will grow,” Wald said. “We’ll be drawn into the politics of Africa to a much greater extent.”

Global warming may have practical implications for base commanders and military logisticians as well. Coastal bases at home and abroad will be affected by rising sea levels, and drought conditions could make it much harder to get potable water to troops in war zones.
(4 October 2007)

Big Coal Tries to Recruit Military to Kindle a Market

Matthew Dalton, Wall Street Journal
Use as Liquid Fuel Is an Aim, but Cost, Pollution Are Issues
The coal industry wants the U.S. military to jump-start a major new market for its product: liquid transportation fuels derived from coal.

The effort, however, faces skeptics who say the Pentagon shouldn’t be subsidizing the high cost and potential environmental harm of what is known as coal-to-liquids technology.

The debate, unfolding in Washington, underscores the difficulty of finding alternatives to oil in a time of global supply concerns. Unconventional sources — from Canada’s vast tar sands, to natural-gas liquids, to ethanol — promise to supplement supplies of crude from difficult-to-reach or politically unstable regions. Yet these sources face their own challenges, with cost often a major stumbling block.

Expanding coal demand beyond the traditional uses of generating electricity and making steel could lead to big profits for both coal miners and companies that develop coal-to-liquids technology.
(11 September 2007)
Online WSJ articles tend to disappear behind paywalls. -BA

Air Force seriously pursuing fuel plant

Peter Johnson, Great Falls Tribune (Montana)
The Air Force is seriously considering a partnership in which a potential commercial interest could build a 20,000 to 30,000 barrel a day coal-to-liquid-fuel plant at Malmstrom Air Force Base as early as 2011.

The plant, which would be financed and operated privately, is still in the early planning stages, “with a lot more wickets to pass through before it gets a green light,” Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Logistics William Anderson said Wednesday.

…Anderson said the Air Force, the government’s largest user of energy, is committed to finding alternative fuel sources that will reduce the nation’s dependence on overseas oil.

The Air Force is converting its jets to use synthetic fuel, he said. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer also is a major supporter of coal-to-liquid-fuel technology.
(5 October 2007)
A reader writes:
The fact that the Air Force is willing to sponsor the production of non-conventional jet fuel implies a knowledge of future shortages of conventional fuel. They are planning accordingly.