As reported by Justin Rohrlich at Vice;
In an October 2009 speech at the Naval Energy Forum, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who had taken over the post six months before, unveiled five energy targets he wanted the Navy to hit over the course of the following decade.We should all give credit to Rep. Duncan Hunter The Younger (R-CA) for his clarity on this topic;
"Energy reform is a strategic imperative," he said.
One of the targets involved the deployment, by 2016, of what he called the Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group "composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running biofuel, and aircraft flying only [on] biofuels."
Three years later, following a vicious battle with Republican legislators over the initiative, a 50/50 blend of chicken fat and conventional petroleum successfully powered two destroyers and a cruiser for two days during a month-long warfare exercise in Hawaii. The feat required 450,000 gallons of biofuel at a cost of $12 million;
For 2016, the Navy has purchased just under 80 million gallons of the 10/90 biofuel blend, about 6 percent of the 1.3 billion gallons of fuel the Navy uses annually. The Navy paid $2.05 per gallon, which is roughly in line with the cost of regular marine diesel thanks to robust biofuel subsidies from the US government, though that hasn't satisfied the program's detractors.This adds no value to our Navy and actually is counter-productive;
"There's more important shit to spend money on in the military, period," says US Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and Republican congressman from San Diego, principal homeport of the Navy's Pacific Fleet.
He describes the decision-makers behind the Great Green Fleet as "all the smartest guys that went to the John F. Kennedy School of Smart People," and calls their interest in biofuels "just stupid."
A recent analysis by Transport & Environment, a European conservation group, found that biodiesel made from palm oil leads to three times the overall CO2 emissions of regular petroleum-based diesel. Therefore the biofuel the Navy took on in the Mediterranean earlier this year arguably enlarged its carbon footprint.In the end, this isn’t just a wasteful vanity project by the SECNAV, but embarrassing for all the good people whose professional lives are impacted by supporting it.
"The Department of Energy is investing a lot of money into algae-based fuels, which are promising, but often the greenest fuels are also the most expensive ones," says Emily Cassidy, a research analyst at the Washington, DC-based Environmental Working Group.
The Navy has paid as much as $424 a gallon for algae-based biofuel in the past…
Biofuels need to be created from something, and according to a report released last year by the nonpartisan World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC-based research group, meeting 20 percent of global energy demand using plant-based biofuels by 2050 "would require humanity to at least double the world's annual harvest of plant material in all its forms.... Therefore, the quest for bioenergy at a meaningful scale is both unrealistic and unsustainable."
Somerville says that "the Navy is essentially doing, well, I don't really know what they're doing. I suppose they're making a statement that they want renewables."What a boondoggle.
Hunter's take is that a "green [Navy] sounds great to a large part of the population that votes a specific way."
And Heinberg says it's due to nothing short of an existential crisis.
"[Navy officials] see the future of oil as bleak, and without oil, how do they stay in business? There is no real answer," he says. "They've got to grasp at some straw or another, and this is the one that's nearest.... But just because people need something doesn't mean it exists."