USA — Navy Energy Official Predicts Biofuels Success

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 — A senior Navy offi­cial yes­ter­day crit­i­cized a major “think tank” for its out­look on the devel­op­ment of alter­na­tive fuel tech­nolo­gies and mar­kets.
Tom Hicks, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Navy for ener­gy, said in a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table that a report from the non­prof­it Rand Corp. to Con­gress this week con­tained “mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions and some fac­tu­al errors,” par­tic­u­lar­ly with regard to Navy devel­op­ment of new fuels.

The Rand Corp. failed to con­sult the Navy and with indus­try, Hicks said, and “based on [our] active engage­ment with indus­try, we have come to some far dif­fer­ent conclusions.” 

The Rand report erro­neous­ly describes the Navy as oper­at­ing a test­ing pro­gram for a petro­le­um sub­sti­tute used to make low-sul­fur diesel fuel, where­as the ser­vice focus­es exclu­sive­ly on bio­fu­els, Hicks said. The report also fails to link the devel­op­ment of alter­na­tive fuels to nation­al secu­ri­ty and down­plays the pos­si­bil­i­ty gov­ern­ment and indus­try would suc­ceed in mak­ing such fuels prac­ti­cal, he added. 

The Navy came to a stark­ly dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion after speak­ing with oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies, includ­ing the Ener­gy Depart­ment, and with cor­po­ra­tions and the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists that fund them, Hicks said. For one thing, he said, the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pos­sess­es suf­fi­cient pur­chas­ing pow­er to some­times dri­ve mar­ket real­i­ties, increas­ing the chances of devel­op­ing new fuels in suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties at the right price. 

Though the mil­i­tary rep­re­sents only 2 per­cent of the U.S. petro­le­um mar­ket, Hicks said, the ser­vices like­ly would dri­ve mar­ket trends, giv­en the finances of America’s largest oil user, the com­mer­cial avi­a­tion industry. 

Hicks also empha­sized that new ener­gy would allow Amer­i­ca to obtain ener­gy independence. 

“We’ve been focused since Octo­ber on a range of [ener­gy] issues,” he said. “Most notably that by 2020, 50 per­cent of our fuel will come from alter­na­tive sources. I think we’re look­ing at this maybe in a broad­er con­text — from an ener­gy inde­pen­dence and ener­gy secu­ri­ty point of view.” 

Navy offi­cials pre­dict the mat­u­ra­tion of the bio­fu­els mar­ket with­in the next five years, Hicks said. 

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

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