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US Navy Leads On 'Green' Fuels

Transition Driven By Logistics Concerns

Environmentalists are pushing the carbon agenda, but it could be the US Navy which ends up leading breakthroughs to free us from fossil fuels. The reasons have little to do with global warming, and everything to do with military logistics.

Ray Mabus is a former governor of Mississippi, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and is now Secretary of the Navy. Not surprising given his background, he's formed a belief that freeing the US military from the constraints of the world petroleum supply will be crucial to preserving its ability to act when necessary.

In an interview aired opposite the Superbowl last Sunday on C-SPAN, Mabus told Brian Lamb it was his time in Saudi Arabia which cemented his resolve. Mabus says, "I’ve set five goals for the Navy, the biggest of which and we’re going to meet these goals is that by 2020 at least half of all energy that the Navy uses, both afloat and ashore, will come from non fossil fuel sources.

"We are too dependent on either potentially or actually volatile places on earth to get our energy. Now we’re susceptible to supply shocks and even if we’ve got enough, we’re susceptible to price shocks. I mean, when the Libya situation started and the price of oil went up $40 a barrel, that was almost a billion dollars additional fuel bill for the US Navy. A billion dollars and the only place we’ve got to go get that money is operations or training, so our ships steam less, our planes fly less, we train our sailors and Marines less.

"We would never give these countries the opportunities to build our ships, our aircraft, our ground vehicles, but we give them a vote in whether those ships sail and whether those aircraft fly or those ground vehicles operate when we allow them to set the price and the supply of our energy and we’ve just got to move away from it."

Regarding alternatives, Mabus said the Navy and Marines are expanding their use of solar and wind power, which is resulting in less need to transport heavy batteries and less need for manpower to guard fuel supplies. But it is in propulsion where military logistics may produce the most radical change in energy use.

Mabus notes, "We’ve certified all our aircraft, every aircraft the Navy and Marine Corp fly for biofuels. We’re doing the same thing with our surface fleet today. We’ve got an F-18, the Hornet, that’s flown 1.7 times the speed of sound using a 50/50 mix of biofuel and aviation gas.

"...the Navy has led this country in changing energy for a long time now. In the 1850s, we went from sail to coal. In the early part of the 20th century, we went from coal to oil. In the 50s, we pioneered nuclear. And now, we’re changing it again. And every single time, from the 1850s to today, you’ve got naysayers, they say you’re trading one form of energy that you know about, that’s predictable, that’s affordable for another that’s not and you just shouldn’t do it. And every single time, they’ve been wrong and I’m absolutely confident they’re going to be wrong again."

FMI: www.navy.mil/Search/display.asp?story_id=52768

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