Mabus Touts Increased Efficiency in Navy Energy

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)