RAND study rebuffed by Navy, Algal Biomass Organization

By Jonathan Williams

A recent RAND study claims that the the military basically shouldn’t waste their time with new alternative energy sources like algae camelina. From a NYT article:

The United States would derive no meaningful military benefit from increased use of alternative fuels to power its jets, ships and other weapons systems, according to a government-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation scheduled for release Tuesday.

The report also argued that most alternative-fuel technologies were unproven, too expensive or too far from commercial scale to meet the military’s needs over the next decade.

However, not everyone agrees with this assessment, including the U.S. Navy. From the same article:

RAND’s conclusions drew swift criticism from some branches of the military — particularly the Navy, which has been leading the foray into advanced algae-based fuels.

“Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.”

The Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Algal Biomass Organization, also issued a statement blasting this study.

Today, the RAND Corporation published a study and accompanying press release calling into question the effectiveness of renewable fuels for military use.

The report can be found here: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG969.pdf

A copy of the press release can be found here: http://www.rand.org/news/press/2011/01/25.html

“It is our understanding that researchers at RAND did not reach out to any of the leading algae companies. Given that most of the cutting edge algae-fuels research is taking place today in the private sector where companies rightly protect their intellectual property, and given that the industry has made significant progress in the past three years, we believe the report is likely based on outdated information. In our opinion, basing sweeping policy recommendations on such data is misguided if not reckless.

The positioning of the entire US algae industry as a “research topic” is patently false. We have more than 100 companies, academic institutions and national laboratories working to develop the algae-to-fuels industry. Algae-derived fuels have already been tested and/or used in motor vehicles and commercial aircraft, and last fall’s successful test of a Navy Riverine Command boat showed that algae fuels are ready for use. It is unclear to us whether or not any actual “green” CTL fuels have been produced or tested.

We believe algae commercialization is far closer than RAND suggests. A 2010 report by Greentech Media Research projected annual US production of 6 billion gallons of algae fuel by 2022. On the contrary, the RAND report calls the potential for commercial production of CTL fuels over the next decade “very limited.”

We will continue to work on behalf of the US algae industry to inform policymakers of the true potential of algae-based fuels as a long term, viable source of renewable fuels for the military.”

2 Responses to “RAND study rebuffed by Navy, Algal Biomass Organization”

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