By Ian Graham
Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2011 – Shortly after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus took office in 2009, he issued a series of daring decrees: the Navy must make serious headway in becoming energy-efficient.
Now, two years later, the Navy is well on its way to increased efficiency and energy independence. Mabus joined a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable yesterday to discuss the Navy’s progress and explain his energy goals for the Navy.
“The most overarching, or the broadest one, was that by no later than 2020, at least half of all Navy energy -- both afloat and ashore -- would come from nonfossil fuel sources,” he said. “I did this to address a vulnerability. We simply buy too much petroleum from either potentially or actually volatile places on Earth, and we need to address that vulnerability to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.”
Mabus said energy independence should be a high strategic priority for the military. Too many unstable governments are making money off of the American military through fuel sales, he said, and embracing alternative fuel sources also serves tactical purposes.
“We import gasoline, more than any single substance, into Afghanistan,” he explained. “For every 50 convoys of fuel, we lose a Marine, either killed or wounded. That is simply too high a price to pay.”
In addition, he said, energy initiatives now save a Marine company almost 700 pounds of batteries by using solar blankets to power some equipment.
Progress will begin showing outwardly very soon, Mabus said. The Navy launched the first hybrid ship, the USS Makin Island, which uses an electric drive for speeds under 12 knots. On its maiden voyage from Pascagoula, Miss., to San Diego, its home port, it used more than $2 million less fuel than comparable nonhybrid ships, Mabus said.
The Navy also is preparing to demonstrate the “Great Green Fleet,” a carrier strike group that sails on nonfossil fuel sources. Its attached air wing also will use nonfossil fuels. Demonstrations will begin in 2012; the Great Green Fleet will be deployed by 2016.
“I’m absolutely confident that we're going to meet these goals that have been set forward,” Mabus said.
Mabus has worked with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu to help establish a nationwide biofuel industry.
“We used the Defense Production Act, which says that if you have an industry which is vital to national security that is not existent in the United States, that the government can step in and partner with private business in order to get that sort of business up and running,” Mabus said.
The Navy, Agriculture and Energy departments are contributing about $500 million in “already-existing money,” Mabus said, to purchase materials from businesses that can help to establish the new industry. Among those potential purchases are contract proposals for 450,000 gallons of biofuels for Navy research and development. It will be one of the largest biofuel purchases made in the United States, the Navy secretary told the bloggers participating in the roundtable.