As I was saying,the thing I love most about America is that theres always somebody here who doesnt get the word and they go out and do the right thing or invent the new thing,no matter whats going on politically or economically. And what could save Americas energy future at a time when a fraudulent,anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal has blocked Congress from passing any clean energy/climate bill is the fact that the navy and marine corps just didnt get the word.
God bless them: The Few. The Proud. The Green. Semper Fi.
Spearheaded by Ray Mabus,President Obamas secretary of the navy and the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia,the navy and marines are building a strategy for out-greening Al-Qaeda,out-greening the Taliban and out-greening the worlds petro-dictators. Their efforts are based in part on a recent study from 2007 data that found that the US military loses one person,killed or wounded,for every 24 fuel convoys it runs in Afghanistan. Today,there are hundreds and hundreds of these convoys needed to truck fuel to run air-conditioners and power diesel generators to remote bases all over Afghanistan.
Mabuss argument is that if the US Navy and Marines could replace those generators with renewable power and more energy efficient buildings,and run its ships on nuclear energy,biofuels and hybrid engines,and fly its jets with biofuels,then it could out-green the Taliban the best way to avoid a roadside bomb is to not have vehicles on the roads and out-green all the petro-dictators now telling the world what to do.
Unlike the Congress,which can be bought off by Big Oil and Big Coal,it is not so easy to tell the Marines that they cant buy the solar power that could save lives. I dont know what the final outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan will be,but if we come out of these two wars with a Pentagon-led green revolution,I know they wont be a total loss. Wars that were driven partly by our oil addiction end up forcing us to break our oil addiction? Wouldnt that be interesting?
Jackalyne Pfannenstiel,the assistant secretary of the navy for energy,installations and environment,used to lead the California Energy Commission. She listed for me whats going on:
On April 22,Earth Day,the navy flew a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet powered by a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and camelina aviation biofuel made from pressed mustard seeds. It flew at Mach 1.2 and has since been tested on biofuels at Mach 1.7 without a hiccup. I loved the quote in Biofuels Digest from Scott Johnson,general manager of Sustainable Oils,which produced the camelina: It was awesome to watch camelina biofuel break the sound barrier.
The navy will use only third generation biofuels. That means no ethanol made from corn because it doesnt have enough energy density. The navy is only testing fuels like camelina and algae that do not compete with food,that have a total end-to-end carbon footprint cleaner than fossil fuels and that can be grown in ways that will ultimately be cheaper than fossil fuels.
In October,the navy launched the USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship,which is propelled by a hybrid gas turbine/electric motor. On its maiden voyage from Mississippi to San Diego,said Mabus,it saved $2 million in fuel.
In addition,the navy has tested its RCB-X combat boat on a 50-50 blend of algae and diesel,and it has tested its SH-60 helicopter on a similar biofuel blend. Meanwhile,the marines now have a green forward operating base set up in Helmand Province in Afghanistan that is testing in the field everything from LED lights in tents to solar canopies to power refrigerators and equipment to see just how efficiently one remote base can get by without fossil fuel.
When you factor in all the costs of transporting fuel by truck or air to a forward base in Afghanistan that is,guarding it and delivering it over mountains a single gallon of gasoline could cost up to $400 once it finally arrives,Mabus said.
The navy plans in 2012 to put out to sea a Great Green Fleet, a 13-ship carrier battle group powered either by nuclear energy or 50-50 blends of biofuels and with aircraft flying on 50-50 blends of biofuels.
Mabus has also set a goal for the navy to use alternative energy sources to provide 50 per cent of the energy for all its war-fighting ships,planes,vehicles and shore installations by 2020. If the navy really uses its buying power when buying power,and setting building efficiency standards,it alone could expand the green energy market in a decisive way.
And,if Congress will simply refrain from forcing the navy to use corn ethanol or liquid coal neither of which are clean or efficient,but are located in many Congressional districts we might really get a green revolution in the military. That could save lives,money and the planet,and might even help us win or avoid the next war. Go navy!