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Soon the Natural-Gas BUFF: The venerable B-52 bomber will serve as the alternative fuel guinea pig of the Air Force Research Lab’s propulsion directorate in September when a bomber flies with two of its eight engines running on a specially blended fuel derived from natural gas. This project is another by-product of the rising cost of fuel. Once considered too costly to pursue, the Fischer-Tropsch fuel production process has probably reached the break-even point, says Maj. Timothy Schulteis, Air Force propulsion program element monitor. AFRL researchers also are considering using coal. According to USAF, the service went in the hole by some $800 million last year alone because of rising fuel costs.