Dallas Hanks, PhD, Director of Center for Agronomics and Woody Biofuels at Utah State University

Courtesy of Dallas Hanks, PhD / Utah State University

Oilseed crops on U.S. Army land can produce alternative fuel

Plants such as safflower, sunflowers and canola are mostly grown for the oil in their seeds. The oils can be used to produce an alternative fuel called biodiesel, which standard diesel engines can burn.

The U.S. Army controls about 15 million acres of land in the United States, some of which could be converted to farm oilseed crops to produce an alternative fuel source. Estimates suggest this could replace millions of gallons of conventional fuel with biodiesel fuel each year.

Louis Berger, Utah State University, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Lab and the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management collaborated on a project called the Feasibility of Energy Crops Grown on Army Lands Study. The study evaluated land use, fuel use, fuel production technology, agronomics, land management and institutional culture to find a way for Army land to support sustainable energy.

The team determined that Army land could effectively be used to grow oilseed crops. This would:

  • Reduce maintenance costs of the land.
  • Promote environmental sustainability.
  • Support the goal of energy independence.

Louis Berger and Utah State University won a 2011 Federal Planning Division of the American Planning Association Outstanding Sustainable Planning, Design and Development Initiative Award for the study.