GOP Takes Aim At US Navy’s Great Green Fleet

The U.S. military’s embrace of alternative energy seems to drive a segment of the public crazy – witness the many vituperative comments to this story about a hybrid ground combat vehicle under development by the Army. Now this skepticism about green warriors is gaining voice in Congress, where a House committee is trying to put the kibosh on the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet.”

Wired’s Danger Room reports that Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee want to ban the Navy from making or buying any alternative fuels that costs more than a “traditional fossil fuel.” The move is aimed specifically at biofuels, which are set to be a featured part of the Navy’s biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise planned for June 29 to August 3 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

RIMPAC, Great Green Fleet, biofuels

image via U.S. Navy

This extravaganza is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise, and the Navy wants to use it for “surface combatant and carrier-based aircraft testing, evaluating and demonstrating of the cross-platform utility and functionality” of biofuels made from algae and refined animal fats.

The Navy said the demo “will also incorporate prototype energy efficiency initiatives such as solid state lighting, online gas turbine waterwash and energy management tools,” but none of that is drawing the ire of conservatives. Instead, they’re focused on the alt fuels, the heart of the Great Green Fleet effort, under which the Navy seeks to deploy a fleet powered entirely by alternative fuels by 2016 on its way to reaching 50 percent alternative energy use overall by 2020.

South San Francisco-based Solazyme, which ferments algae to produce oil that can be refined into fuel, is one of two big players in the Navy’s biofuels program. The other is Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, a Tyson Foods-Syntroleum joint venture that makes its fuel from used cooking oil and non-food-grade animal fats. Last December the Navy said it will pay $12 million to purchase a total of 450,000 gallons of biofuels from the companies to help power a carrier group during big maritime exercises this summer. The biofuels do come at a hefty cost. Based on the $12 million purchase price for 450,000 gallons, the Navy is paying north of $26 per gallon for the biofuel – more than eight times the approximately $3 per gallon that petroleum-based jet fuel is going for these days. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said the investment is worth it, for a number of reasons.

u.s. navy biofuels algae

image via Wikimedia Commons

“We think that this represents a major step in energy independence for the United States in making the United States Navy a better war-fighting operation,” Mabus said, “and in reducing our dependence on unstable sources of foreign energy, as well as reducing the budget shocks that come with buying fuel from either potentially or actually unstable place on earth.”

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is a leading critic of the Navy biofuels policy, arguing that in an era of shrinking budgets, the price premium for biofuels is a waste of money that could be spent on expanding the Navy’s fleet.

“When I look at shipbuilding, I see the secretary coming over here with a shipbuilding plan, and he won’t take a stretch goal on shipbuilding, you know, but we’re cutting down and we’re cutting down the goal that we had of 313 ships and saying no, 300 is enough,” Forbes told Navy Times last month. The Navy, in response, said there was no choice between fuel or ships, and that the Navy was supporting both.


  • Reply May 17, 2012


    The Navy set a new Department of Defense record for biofuel price with a February contract for $245,000 to Albemarle Corp. to convert 100 gallons of biobutanol into 55 gallons of jet fuel. That’s $4,454.55 a gallon, and that does not include the cost of creating the Cobalt biobutanol in the first place.

    • Reply May 18, 2012


      The gop controlled house just voted to re-up financing for the war in Afghanistan, but they refuse to support any R&D that might hurt their oil company “supporters” (read: huge campaign donors). While R&D for this is expensive, ALL R&D projects are expensive. If there’s no research, how do we find new technologies? Answer: We don’t. Just as the republican deficit hawks would like.   

      • Reply May 20, 2012


        Hey, pal, talk about supporters…you are obviously an ignoramus. The democrats have huge “support”, not to mention heavy personal investments, in these so called Green tech companies. As far as oil goes, my friend, big oil gives money to ALL politicians. Then, look at the contradiction of the Left. General Electric pays no taxes. Jeff Inmalt is one of Obama’s biggest supporters. He is the “evil chief executive” of GE. Isn’t it all those CEO’s you leftist knuckleheads hate!? You know, the ones who provide jobs? As far as this article, I think it is the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever seen to support making our national security apparatus dependent on not only expensive, but unproven, technology. Your comment about the GOP and the war…wasn’t it your prez who said he would have all the troops home? He just extended our presence until 2024 you idiot. He lied. Wasn’t it Obama who said he would close Guantanamo Bay? He lied. Wasn’t it Obama who said Bush was “unpatriotic” for raising the deficit by $4T in 8 years? Didn’t he say he would slash it in half? Obama lied again, he has increased the deficit more in 3.5 years than bush did in 8! Isn’t it HIS head of the Justice Department, Holder, who was a lawyer defending terrorists previously? When are you Libs going to get your head out of the sand? Wake up!

  • Reply May 19, 2012


    That is an awesome display of POWER.

  • Reply May 25, 2012

    John Cogar

    Sorry…  I’m a card carring renewable energy advocate and I think there is something wrong with bio-fuel at $26.00 per gal unless the specs required are so far out in RIGHT field as to raise the cost so damn much…  Why is the cost that high is the proper question..  F..em if they are ripping off the Navy!   F…  the republicans if the specs required were made so wierd that that is the cost of compliance…  What’s the story???

    • Reply May 27, 2012


      The story is that these biofuels are costly because the Navy is paying for research and development. These aren’t off-the-shelf products. There is no well-developed supply chain. It’s all being built — and the Navy is helping to build it. Is that a smart move? Does the Navy need alternatives to petroleum-based fuels? How much will it cost to develop a supply chain that can produce biofuels in large amounts and at reasonably competitive cost? That are important questions we should always be asking. But let’s keep in perspective how modest this investment is: Over the next five years, DOD figures to spend, on average, about $60 million year on biofuels. Meanwhile, in 2011 alone DOD spent $17 billion on Petroleum. 

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