Congressional leaders are taking aim at the biofuels that power the Navy’s Green Fleet
The U.S. Navy consumes more diesel fuel than any other single entity on the entire planet; this is a strategic and financial disadvantage to a modern fleet. The United States is still struggling with energy independence, which means the military depends on obtaining oil from volatile places across the globe. Our reliance on these foreign sources can mean large unexpected expenditures, such as when the Libya conflict occurred. To put a number on the problem, the U.S. Navy will consume about 1.2 billion gallons of oil and if oil prices rise by just $1 per barrel, it adds $28.5 million in fuel costs.
In 2009 the U.S. Navy embarked on a project that created a mass of energy efficiency jobs within the ranks and its civilian contractors. The goal was to create a fleet of ships, aircraft and other vehicles that ran on alternative fuel sources by 2016. The Great Green Fleet, as it became known, helped to stimulate the use of renewable energy, such as biofuels, within the military. This helped reduce the Navy’s dependence on fossil fuels and is expected to affect the larger economy as well, pushing the U.S. closer to energy independence. At least that was the hope, until congressional leaders stepped in to complicate matters by banning the additional purchase of biofuels to power the fleet.
As the Navy prepared to show off the Great Green Fleet, which consists of an entire aircraft carrier strike group, it has come under attack from an unlikely source. The House Armed Services Committee is working to ban the use of biofuels, making it illegal to make or buy alternative fuels that cost more than a traditional fossil fuel. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy argued that the Republicans leading the measure were being overly simplistic. Looking at this strictly as a cost cutting measure is short sided, research and development often requires higher prices to help with refinement of the product, once fully adopted the price normally drops. This has proven true with the biofuels used by the Navy, the costs have already been slashed in half since 2009.
Mabus summed up the concern quite well when addressing a Senate Subcommittee in March, “it’s a false choice to say that we should concentrate on more ships versus a different kind of fuel. If we don’t get a different kind of fuel, if we don’t have a secure domestic supply of energy at an affordable price… the ships and the planes may not be able to be used because we can’t get the fuel.”
Energy independence is not only an economical priority; it is a national security priority. While American made biofuels are more expensive today, the cost will decrease over time. The first microwave ovens cost around $2000 to $3000, though today you can pick one up for about $30. If we let America do what it does best, we just might help create a cleaner planet while keeping America safe from all threats.