[NEWS] US Navy’s Biofuels Push Warranted?
– by Justin Rohrlich, July 13, 2016, 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.
“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; at the time, it was the largest-ever single purchase of biofuel.
But Mabus’s vision of the Great Green Fleet — named in homage to the Great White Fleet, which projected America’s naval power around the world in the early 20th century — hasn’t come to pass. In January, a strike group powered in part by biofuel deployed, but the blend had just 10 percent rendered beef fat compared to 90 percent conventional diesel. Navy planes have used biofuel once, during a test.
This past May, VICE News visited the USS Farragut and USS Bainbridge, Arleigh Burke–class guided missile destroyers that were running on the 10/90 blend. A few weeks later, another destroyer, the USS Mason, took delivery of a fuel blend made up of 94.5 percent conventional diesel and 5.5 percent biodiesel made from palm oil. None of the ships required engine modifications to use the fuel.