Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Navy's Solyndra

We are back, again, to the Navy's Great Green Folly.
In its tanks, the USNS Henry J. Kaiser carried nearly 900,000 gallons of biofuel blended with petroleum to power the cruisers, destroyers and fighter jets of what the Navy has taken to calling the "Great Green Fleet," the first carrier strike group to be powered largely by alternative fuels.

Conventionally powered ships and aircraft in the strike group will burn the blend in an operational setting for the first time this month during the 22-nation Rim of the Pacific exercise, the largest annual international maritime warfare maneuvers. The six-week exercise began on Friday.

The Pentagon hopes it can prove the Navy looks as impressive burning fuel squeezed from seeds, algae and chicken fat as it does using petroleum.

But the demonstration, years in the making, may be a Pyrrhic victory.

Some Republican lawmakers have seized on the fuel's $26-a-gallon price, compared to $3.60 for conventional fuel. They paint the program as a waste of precious funds at a time when the U.S. government's budget remains severely strained, the Pentagon is facing cuts and energy companies are finding big quantities of oil and gas in the United States.
Green? How is that track record over the last few years? What was Solyndra? In many ways - just a well meaning political agenda based case of socialist industrial planning - one with the expected results.

What is a folly?
noun, plural fol·lies for 2–6.
3. a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure.
4.Architecture . a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century.
Back in December when, sadly, I had a pivot from the SECNAV, I stated the following,
It has become a vanity project, tone-deaf to the financial crunch that the actual operational side of the military is under. It just jumped the cost-benefit shark.
This is more and more a vanity project, going beyond a good and useful experiment.

I like ideas, projects, and tests - but in a headwind of reality, the SECNAV pushes on like some 1930s era Soviet Industrial Policy Commissar.
"The reason we're doing this is that we simply buy too many fossil fuels from either actually or potentially volatile places on earth," Mabus told a conference on climate and security last month.

He says the Pentagon can use its buying muscle - it is the largest single consumer of petroleum in the world - to guarantee the demand needed for biofuel businesses to produce at a scale that will eventually drive down costs.

"We use 2 percent of all the fossil fuels that the United States uses," Mabus told the conference. "And one of the things that this means is that we can bring the market. And to paraphrase the old 'Field of Dreams' line, if the Navy comes, they will build it."
There you go. This is about Commissar Mabus wanting to make the biofuels industry on the backs of an already limited Navy budget that can't even properly fund maintenance of existing ships.

Good idea? Sure - but this is the Navy, not a place for your unsustainable personal projects. The road to insolvency is paved with good ideas that become follies.

Like many of his generation's policies now that they have a firm grip on power - they are stuck in their salad days of the 1970s.

As described by in National Interest by NDU's Paul D. Miller;
But the Middle East’s comparative advantage in energy production and the world’s need for oil both peaked around 1974, and both have been in long-term decline ever since. In reaction to the oil embargoes and disruptions of 1974 and 1979, the Western world embarked on a generational and largely successful effort at energy conservation. The United States’ energy intensity—a measure of how much energy is used per dollar of GDP—has been cut in half since 1973, falling from 15,400 BTUs per dollar to 7,470 in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This unheralded success means that because of advances in efficiency and conservation practices, the world economy is less dependent on all forms of energy, oil included, than previously.
Even under the inflated numbers, the Middle East accounts for only 46 percent of remaining reserves of oil and liquid natural gas ultimately recoverable with conventional means, according to the IEA.

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