It sounds like an awesome idea:
Marine Sgt. Brian Nelson found himself alone with four hard-won barrels of cottonseed oil one day last fall in a Afghan field in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.
Originally, Nelson said, military leaders had hoped to produce poppyseed oil as a biofuel and give Afghan farmers an alternative product for their more than 8,000 tons of yearly opium.
The Marine Corps alone uses 200,000 gallons of fuel each day in Afghanistan, and fuel convoys are an especially easy target for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set by insurgents — a fact that has not escaped the notice of military leaders. All the services are taking steps to cut their fuel dependency and switch to alternative sources, and shortly after Nelson deployed to Afghanistan, the Marine Corps commandant issued some of the most aggressive energy-reduction goals of all the services.
However, let us think about what Sgt. Nelson needed to do to get this Helmand-sourced cottonseed oil from farmer to generator:
- Travel between Camps Leatherneck and Bastion, presumably by helicopter;
- Gathering a security convoy to go by road to a village halfway between Bastion and Lashkar Gah;
- Driving the full security convoy protecting an old pickup truck he purchased to carry the fuel back to Bastion;
- Flying in a Osprey back to Camp Leatherneck.
Even then, this cottonseed oil doesn’t work when it gets cold, and increases the maintenance required on the base’s diesel generators.
Is this really an improvement?
Update: It’s been brought to my attention that the British base mentioned in this story is most likely not Bastion, as you can drive from Bastion to Leatherneck with no problems and they share an airfield. So the British base is some other base, somewhere between Bastion/Leatherneck and Lashkar Gah. I think the main points of this post remain the same.