USDA and US Navy Launch Effort to Encourage Development and Use of Biofuels and Other Renewable Energy
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel kicked off the first of several energy forums to look at ways to increase biofuels production and meet the Navy’s renewable energy needs. The forum comes as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in January by the USDA and the Department of the Navy (DON) to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems. (Earlier post.)
From a strategic perspective, the objective is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels from volatile areas of the world. Tactically, on the battlefield, the costs of transporting fuel is exponentially increased; in extreme cases a gallon of gasoline could cost up to $400. To address this reality, DON announced five ambitious energy targets for the Navy and Marine Corps; biofuels are a major component of four of those goals. Those targets are:
By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel.
By 2016 sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel. (The Navy will demonstrate an F/A-18 Super Hornet powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend on 22 April, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. as part of its biofuel certifications.)
By 2015 cut petroleum use in its 50,000 non-tactical vehicle commercial fleet in half, by phasing in hybrid, flex fuel and electric vehicles.
By 2020, produce at least half of shore based installations’ energy requirements from alternative sources. Also 50% of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers.
By 2020 half of DON’s total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative sources.
The MOU, signed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on 21 January, complements USDA and The Navy and Marine Corps’ existing renewable energy programs and efforts. USDA has a variety of programs and services that support renewable energy development, including:
Rural Development loan and grant programs focused on developing renewable energy systems and helping agricultural producers and businesses adopt energy efficiency improvements;
The Farm Service Agency’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which supports the establishment and production of crops for conversion to bioenergy, biobased products and power; and
The Research, Education and Economics division’s comprehensive bioenergy research program focused on developing new varieties and hybrids of bioenergy feedstocks.
The Department of the Navy recently established the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Office to develop and employ proven business models and investment strategies that leverage public and private investment to achieve naval, defense, and national energy goals.