An F-16 burns 28 gallons of fuel per minute — one reason the U.S. Air Force accounts for more than half of all the fuel the U.S. Government consumes. Small wonder the Air Force wants to reduce its dependence on foreign sources of oil and spare taxpayers in the bargain. Toward that end, a B-52 will take off this summer from Edwards Air Force Base with two engines burning a 50/50 mixture of JP-8 jet fuel and converted natural gas. As a precaution, the other six engines will burn regular jet fuel.

The cost of the test fuel will be high. But Air Force officials say oil prices above $45/barrel make the synthetic-blend fuels cost effective. Syntroleum Corp., Tulsa, a maker of synthetic fuel, can produce 42 gallons of synthetic fuel from 10,000 cf of natural gas. The raw materials cost about $70. If the military pursues the syntheticfuel option, Syntroleum's technology could be used to produce the same 42 gallons of fuel from $10 worth of coal, according to a company spokesman.

In fiscal 2005, the Air Force used 3.2 billion gallons of aviation fuel or 52.5% of all fossil fuel used by the government. The Air Force bill for jet fuel last year: over $4.7 billion.

The federal government and military account for only 1.7% of total national energy consumption, but every increase of $10/barrel drives up costs by $600 million/year.