Navy Secretary: Algae-based fuel makes us ‘better warfighters’

Ray Maybus and other “green energy” proponents should be made to walk the plank before our Navy is torpedoed from within.

Below are our comments (in bold brackets) to today’s Politico report “Navy powers up campaign for great green fleet.”


Navy powers up campaign for great green fleet

By Austin Wright

3/8/12 5:32 AM EST
Confronting the secretary of the Navy, an obviously frustrated Rep. Randy Forbes pounded his desk in a five-minute scolding over the service’s push for an ever greener fleet.

“You’re not the secretary of the energy, you’re secretary of the Navy,” the Virginia Republican told Ray Mabus in no uncertain terms. [Good strong statement.]

Instead of all the emphasis on biofuels and other alternative energies to power the Navy’s vast fleet of ships and planes, Forbes suggested bluntly during a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing that, particularly in these tough economic times, Mabus should concentrate on finding more money for more ships, planes and other pressing needs — in part to counter the growing Chinese presence in the Pacific.

“I love green energy. I’m not against it,” Forbes said. “It’s a matter of priorities.” [What is there to “love” about green energy?” What is the green energy success story?]

Increasingly, the Navy’s clean-energy agenda has become embroiled in politics since President Barack Obama highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address in January. [The captive military is the customer-of-last-resort for green energy crap.]

For Obama and Navy leaders, reducing dependence on foreign oil is a major priority, one that would save money over the long haul and make the service more resilient in the event of a global oil crisis. For some Republicans, though, the focus on energy projects is further evidence the president is flexing his executive powers to satisfy the demands of his liberal electoral base.

All the Navy secretary “has tried to do is push an energy agenda,” Forbes complained in an interview with POLITICO.

For his part, Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi tapped by Obama three years ago to be the top civilian leader of the Navy, takes it all in stride.

The U.S. must move away from its dependence on foreign oil, and the Navy’s clean-energy projects, including investments in algae-based biofuels, “have made us better warfighters,” Mabus said, explaining that for every $1 increase in oil prices per barrel, the Navy pays and additional $31 million in fuel costs. [Oil is cheaper than biofuels.]

“That means that our sailors and Marines steam less, train less, fly less,” Mabus said. “For these reasons, we have to be relentless in our pursuit of energy goals that will continue to make us a more effective fighting force and our military and our nation more energy independent.” [How? Biofuels are less efficient than oil.]

The efforts for a greener Navy don’t come cheap. In December, the service purchased 450,000 gallons of biofuels at $26.75 per gallon, POLITICO Pro reported. The biofuels were then mixed with petroleum-based fuels, typically costing just a few dollars a gallon.

One of the reasons behind the Navy’s investment in the more-expensive biofuels is to promote domestic alternative-energy production. Navy leaders contend that a vibrant clean-energy industry in the United States could protect the fleet from spikes in fuel prices.

Several studies suggest prices for alternative fuels will be competitive with petroleum by 2018 or soon after, said Tom Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy. Current energy initiatives, he said, are preparing the service to take advantage of the expected drop in the cost of clean energy. [How? Cellulosic ethanol has bee a bust.]

“It’s going to be critical to meet the goal and get the price point where we need it,” Hicks said in an interview. “We really see what we’re working on is not political in any way, shape or form.” [Not at all.]

One of Mabus’s key initiatives is to have half of the Navy’s total energy consumption come from alternative sources by 2020. The service plans to sail its Great Green Fleet by 2016 — a strike group powered largely by biofuels.

Leaders of the Marine Corps also have focused more on energy in recent years — a result of the high cost of moving huge volumes of fuel to U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. Currently, the corps consumes more than 200,000 gallons a day there.

“For every 50 convoys we bring in in fuel, a Marine is killed or wounded,” Mabus told lawmakers last month. “That is too high a price to pay.” [Repeat: Biofuel is less efficient than fossil fuels.]

In all, about 3,000 U.S. troops or contractors have been killed or wounded protecting convoys, POLITICO has reported. Roughly 80 percent of convoys carry fuel. [War involves casualties. Convoys will always be necessary for food, fuel and water. How about better planned and protected convoys?]

The Marine Corps has set two major energy goals: to cut its battlefield requirements for energy by half by 2025 and to have half its bases produce as much energy as they consume by 2020. [Energy efficiency, historically, has been a waste of time, money and effort.]

“At the tactical level, we have seen some very promising results using renewable energy technologies in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Gregory Wolf, a media officer for the Marines. “It’s a huge battle space in Afghanistan. We have Marines all over Helmand province, and they’re widely dispersed. The reason we’re able to conduct such distributed operations is because of improved communication and surveillance systems, and those require batteries.”

Wolf pointed to SPACES — portable solar panels — as an example of a project that’s already making a difference by allowing Marines to charge equipment on the battlefield, reducing the need for batteries.

Still, the issue remains touchy for many Republicans, especially in light of other White House energy initiatives, including the Energy Department program that backed a loan to the now-bankrupt company Solyndra.

“Should the Navy have an open-ended budget to buy fuels at whatever cost makes sense?” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) asked at the Navy’s budget hearing. “Because renewable fuels will always be more expensive than conventional fuels.”

“Your premise is absolutely wrong,” Mabus shot back. “I know that what we are doing is making us a better military.” [Mabus is distracting the Navy from its mission.]

Related reading:

11 thoughts on “Navy Secretary: Algae-based fuel makes us ‘better warfighters’”

  1. Whatever fuel is used it has to be transported so to save gren fuels will lives iis stupid
    Joe Cap

  2. Dear Ben: I don’t want waste. And our military, lately seems to have stopped being grounded in reality, what with their “death-clench” with ROE, and political-correctness. Other nations have added new groups to respond to battlefield “needs”, like Computers, Chem-/bio-war experts, ensuring Hydration via solar/other distilation of ANY type of water, more stuff carried to deal with female combat troops, and we have added some of that stuff, too. The military seldom armours fuel-tanks, so I can see a small unit stranded, easily. Did you know the largest abandonment of Axis Heavy tanks, in one place, were about 8 Tiger-tanks, which were disabled, due to mechanical break-down? They couldn’t fix them, knew WE couldn’t, and might also have been in a “rush” to advance to a more defensible position. Then the VENDORS should develope field-fuel-replentishment, rather than the military. OK. So long as somebody’s working on it, I’ll CHANGE my mind. I thought Fischer-Trops was a modification of 1926 Standard Oil of New Jersey patents that WE gave to the Weimar Republic, or were Fischer-Trops already working for Standard(–Exxon, now), or did Standard maybe BUY their patents, hold them for a while, gifting them later?

  3. I think if we really want a fuel efficient navy, we should go back to sailing ships – no engines just wind and sails. That will scare the enemy, whoever it is.

  4. Jek, you have a point that it might be reasonable to research for circumstances of a full scale war in the future, where we might exceed our capacity for oil production (like how the Nazis invented the Fischer-Trops process to make oil from coal). However, there’s a difference between research and purchasing what is known to be an unviable source for general use. I’m fine with running tests, but this is just wasteful.

  5. I was involved in one of those “green” energy projects in Afghanistan just last year. The US government wanted to power three small medical clinics with wind, and provide battery back-up to ride through times when wind wasn’t available. The group pushing the project thought that any time the wind blows at all they got nameplate rating from the turbine. Obviously complete ignorance. Here is the spec:

    Provide 10kW of nameplate rated wind turbine, with 24 hours of battery back-up at full nameplate rating. Anticipated actual usage should be expected to be approximately 2kW, average.

    When I got the project they’d appropriated $900,000 (US) for all three, including upgrades and renovations to each clinic to use the power. When we stopped laughing in my office we told them they didn’t have enough money for one clinic, let alone all three. The final estimate was $1 million PER CLINIC. Last I heard they were proceeding.

  6. One would think improving the nuclear propulsion systems on Navy ships would be a step in the right direction. Petroleum-based fuels are available around the world making any switch to an alternative fuel a strategic blunder since it could theoretically limit the scope of operations in various parts of the world. Clearly this is a political ploy. What’s next green ammunition and armor?

  7. When the President talked about algea fuel I looked on the web for who made it. The President was asked about gas prices the algea fuel was diesel. The company I found braged they has made 80,000 liters for the Navy. I was trying to picture how much that would be. I looked on the web for semi-truck tanker size, they listed 8500 gallons as the size. The algea diesel could be delivered in three tanker loads. A truck stop probably uses more in a week.

  8. The only successful “green” fuel is grass. There is a fortune waiting for the inventor of a “horse exhaust catalytic converter”!

  9. And oil may not be available for what reason? Not because it isn’t plentiful. We have over 250 years of oil right here in the USA. If oil is not available, it will be for political reasons alone. Only dumbasses think alternative fuels are a solution to anything.

  10. I diverge on this topic. While oil is cheaper better, and more efficient, it may NOT be available, and fuels made from “junk-plants”(–like Hemp) MAY be distillable. As wonderful as our equipment is, if it doesn’t move, its a target. There is no global-warming, but the military should be able to make emergency-amounts of bio-fuels, imo, to be able to manuver, advance, or retreat. How they can DO that,–make emergency amounts, I’m not sure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.