U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal held a conference call to brief media on the demonstration in local operations of a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group operating on advanced biofuel, and to discuss the Obama Administration's commitment to strengthening national energy security and developing domestic fuel sources.
The Navy is pursuing alternatives because the nation's reliance on foreign oil is a significant and well-recognized military vulnerability. "The ability to use fuels other than petroleum is critical to our energy security, because it will increase our flexibility and reduce the services' vulnerability to rapid and unforeseen changes in the price of oil," stated Mabus.
For two days, the U.S. Navy powered the "Great Green Fleet," a Carrier Strike Group's aircraft and surface ships, on advanced biofuel to test the fuel's performance in an operational setting. The demonstration took place off the coast of Hawaii as part of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Secretary Mabus observed operations, which included fueling helicopters and jets from the deck of a nuclear-powered carrier; completing arrested landings of aircraft onto a carrier, the first ever using biofuels; refueling a destroyer while underway; and air-to-air refueling.
"The successful demonstration was a unique opportunity to watch our highly skilled sailors doing what they do best, and to witness in an operational setting the seamless integration of advanced biofuel and energy efficient technologies in some of the U.S. Navy's most sophisticated air and sea platforms," stated Mabus.
In addition to operating on alternative fuels, including nuclear power, the Great Green Fleet showcased energy efficiency technology that increase combat capability by allowing Navy ships to achieve greater range and by reducing dependence on a vulnerable logistics supply chain. More information on the demonstration, including a list of participating ships, is available here.
Secretary Mabus also signed a Statement of Cooperation with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to formalize future cooperation on alternative fuel deployment.
The entire demonstration will burn 450,000 gallons of biofuel made from non-food waste (used cooking oil). The biofuel was purchased from Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels LLC, Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint-venture of Tyson Foods, Inc., and Syntroleum Corporation, and algae, produced by Solazyme. This fuel was blended with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel to produced 900,000 gallons of 50/50 blend biofuel.
"The historic significance of the Navy's operation, in real theater-like conditions, of their ships and planes on biofuels should not be underestimated," stated Secretary Vilsack. "USDA's goal is to help make our US military less dependent on foreign oil and on oil that has to be transported long distances in supply lines that could be disrupted during times of conflict. Hawaii has arable land and a willing and able agricultural community that could produce readily usable fuels in the future. USDA is working to help Hawaii become a local producer of biofuels for the Navy. We can, as a nation, change the fuel production and distribution paradigm in the world, if we are consistent in our efforts to increase our production and use of domestic biofuels which are important to our energy and national security as well a create jobs."
Navy Demonstration Advances Administration's Broad Energy Agenda
The demonstration is a component of a broader Administration effort to reduce reliance on imported petroleum by partnering with the private sector to speed the commercialization of next-generation biofuels. For example, Navy, USDA and DOE recently announced $30 million in funding to support commercialization of "drop-in" biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel through the Defense Production Act Title III (DPA), an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to support the industrialization of defense-critical domestic industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics. At the same time, the Department of Energy announced an additional $32 million to support research into advanced biofuel technologies that are in earlier stages of development.