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Secretary of the Navy Sets Target for 50% of Total Energy Consumption from Alternative Sources by 2020; Role for Biofuels and EVs

In a speech at the Naval Energy Forum, US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus set out five energy targets for the department to meet over the course of the next decade, including the overall goal of half of the total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and shore installations coming from alternative sources by 2020.

Another of the five goals is for the Department of the Navy to reduce petroleum use in its 50,000 strong commercial fleet by half by 2015. It will do that, Secretary Mabus said, by replacing the current fleet, as they go out of service, with a new composite fleet of flex fuel vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and neighborhood electric vehicles.

Moving to biofuels and electric vehicles will benefit the local communities where our bases are located and will spur adoption of similar vehicles in those neighborhoods.

—Navy Sec. Mabus

As to the larger goal, currently about 17% of the Navy and Marine Corps energy consumption comes from alternative sources. Secretary Mabus said that he had been advised that 40% was a more realistic goal, and that even that was difficult because of cost and logistics, but that “our Navy and Marine Corps has never backed away from a challenge.

...fossil fuel consumption has a deep impact upon our forces and our force structure, both in terms of the resources required to get fuel and to move it to the ships, tanks, aircraft, and equipment that need it, and in the Sailors and Marines whose duty it is to protect the ships or convoys moving the gas. We do not have operational independence and we are tied to a vulnerable logistics tail.

The Commandant of the Marine Crops, General Conway said it best during the Marine Corps energy summit a few weeks ago when he described the fully burdened cost of a gallon of gasoline delivered to a piece of equipment in Afghanistan. It turns out that when you factor in the cost of transportation to a coastal facility in Pakistan—or airlifting it to Kandahar—and then you add the cost of putting it in a truck, guarding it, delivering it to the battlefield, and then transferring that one gallon into a piece of equipment that needs it—in extreme cases that gallon of gasoline could cost up to $400.

In the drive for energy reform—and this is critical—in the drive for energy reform the goal has got to be increased warfighting capability.

—Sec. Mabus

The other three goals set out by Secretary Mabus are:

  • The Navy and Marine Corps will change the way they award contracts. The lifetime energy cost of a building or a system, and the fully burdened cost of fuel in powering those, will be a mandatory evaluation factor used when awarding contracts. They will hold industry contractually accountable for meeting energy targets and system efficiency requirements. They will also use the overall energy efficiency and the energy footprint of a competing company as an additional factor in acquisition decisions.

  • The Navy will demonstrate in local operations by 2012 a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel. By 2016, it will sail that Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running biofuel, and aircraft flying only biofuels—and will deploy it.

  • The Department of the Navy will by 2020 produce at least half of its shore-based energy requirements on its installations from alternative sources. It will boost its usage of renewable energy and in some cases will supply power to the grid from solar, wind, ocean, or geothermal sources generated by the base. The Navy is already doing this at China Lake, where on-base systems generate 20 times the load of the base.

In his speech, Mabus noted that Navy F/A-18s will fly on renewable jet fuel within 3 years.

...although the cost of the fuel used in that engine is high right now—it is still cheaper than putting gas into a generator on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

—Sec. Mabus

At the same time, he said, improvements to F/A-18 engines that will be in service by 2015 will improve the efficiency of each aircraft by 3%.

These improvements not only allow those aircraft to fly longer, faster, or farther on the same tank of fuel, but could save us 127,000 barrels of fuel per plane per year, amounting to $15 million per plane per year at today’s fuel prices. That means for every 7 planes we put these new engines on, we’ll be able to buy an additional F/A-18 E/F with the savings. If you believe the cost of fuel will go higher, as almost everyone does, the savings will only increase.

—Sec. Mabus

The 2009 Naval Energy Forum was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.



This is great news. A giant step. When the navy says they're going to do something they're not just blowing smoke. I just don't know where they're going to find that much green fuel by 2020. The navy is a huge consumer of fuel.


Folks - beware of wordsmithing & spin.... think of the Navy's biggest ships & facilities - already using energy from an "alternative" source: nuclear energy. If you think of total energy consumption per year (including converting what is used from non-alternative sources (ie. petroleum, coal)) used by the Navy, it's probably close to 50% already from nuclear power with aircraft carriers, submarines & destroyers going all over the place, all the time. They wouldn't say 50% by 2020 if it wasn't something that was going to be easy to do. Someone somewhere is trying to look good on paper by doing something easy.


"save us 127,000 barrels of fuel per plane per year, amounting to $15 million per plane per year at today’s fuel prices."

This is an astonishing number and does not involve nuclear power. Navy planes take LOTS of fuel and using alternatives can reduce the oil used in a major way. I am glad the Navy is doing this, the other branches of the armed forces need to do the same ASAP.


If you want to wean the US military off of fossil fuels, go after the US Air Force first.... the Air Force is "the single largest consumer of fuel in the federal government and buys 10 percent of all aviation fuel in the United States. Last year, it burned through 2.4 BILLION gallons of fuel at a cost of $7.7 BILLION"
(http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/energy/2009/03/16/how-the-us-military-is-trying-to-cut-its-enormous-energy-appetite.html). They will no doubt argue that it's all for freedom, but they should still be able to find ways use renewable jet fuel.


Crude price has not gone up 20% to %40 lately. The USD relative real value has gone down 20% to 40%.

Crude price in Euro or in $ CAN (and many other currencies) has not changed much while it has gone up from $50 USD to $75 USD.

Assuming that the current trend continues for another 6 to 24 months, crude may go up another 20% to 40% in USD without realy going up. One Euro may be worth $2 USD within a few months/years.

The current financial disaster is progressively taking its toll on the USD. A 50 + % devalued USD may not be that bad for USA's economy. It would effectively reduce most of the current high (foreign) Fed debts by 50%. It would also help export of all USA made goods and services since they would be 50% cheaper. The $76/hr paid to Big-3 workers would in reality become competitive at $38/hr in 2007 $.

On the other hand, all imported goods and services would cost twice as much, making locally made goods more competitive.

An overly devalued USD may provoke worldwide commercial and financial stress and require more recovery and stabilization programs.

In the longer run, lower USD value = lower standards of living. That's when the grudge will multiply.

Wonder if US overpaid bankers, and the previous Administration, realized that their doings would provoke such a chain reaction.


Don't forget, the Navy is the driving force behind Polywell fusion research. It's a longshot to be sure, but if it succeeds the payoff will be epic.


Yes and a devalued dollar will no longer be the reserve currency for settling international debt payments. It will also be a disaster for retirees on fixed income. It may even come to pass that the green back will be scrapped and replaced by a new currency so that everyone will be made poorer overnight.

Think Argentina in the 1980s.

Good move that I got out of dollar denominated assets sometime ago.


Larry: "It's something you've always wanted."
Moe: "Nuclear disarmament? An end to tranny? Freedom for prisoners of conscience?"

Larry: "It's change for the laundromat"
Moe: "The rest should be easy then"

Bill Young


I believe you are correct, the navy is thinking of expanding its fleet of nuclear powered ships to reduce its carbon footprint. The navy does not currently have any nuclear ships other than carriers and subs.

Congress passed a directive that all future large combat vessels should be nuclear powered. In response to this, the navy started planning a nuclear heavy destroyer series. It was actively pursuing this before the economy hit the toilet. The economy will probably cause a multiyear delay in this program if it doesn't sink it altogether.



I have a better idea for reducing fuel consumption in the US military: stay home.

The world would be a better place without the US sticking its big fat nose in other countries' affairs, from Latin America to the Far East...

Naval Task Force Energy

Naval Task Force Energy appreciates the comments and attention to our recent energy forum. To learn more about our efforts toward energy efficiency and alternative fuels, please follow us on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/yh8kffs and on Twitter @NavalEnergy


Beancounter you have it wrong - the vast majority of places the US is involved is where the host countries / allies want us there...all Germany, the UK, Japan and other nations where the US has bases have to say is GTFO and the US will leave. The remaining places are where we don't want to be, but have no choice for national security (ie. terrorism suppression / prevention).

Roger Pham

Very wise move by the US Navy! By 2015, automakers will start putting out FCV's run on H2. The USN can be among the first bulk purchasers, helping to jumpstart this technology. Imagine this: Portable Nuclear reactors or ship-borne reactors brought to the operational theater will produce H2 near the point of consumption for these vehicles, eliminating all the expenses of handling gasoline and diesel all the thousands of miles, hence a significant cost saving in the fuel budget. In desert areas, a large collection of solar panels can also produce some or all of the H2 needed for military operation.

Another plus: Compressed H2 tank is practically bullet proof, making military FCV's even safer than current petroleum-burning vehicles.

Stan Peterson

Y'all have overlooked the one area that the Navy can lead and help push technological advance. The day of the Fuel Cell/Battery powered submarine is near.

Nearly all the benefits of nuclear power, with many fewer deficits of "conventional diesel-elctric" power at a much smaller price tag.


Eij, I have lived in several of the countries you mention and believe me, the vast majority of the population wants US forces OUT. Americans are so delusional! Well it's not so surprising considering the crap you are fed by the US media (with a few exceptions, e.g. NYT). Read Backlash by Chalmers Johnson, an American, to learn why having such a large presence overseas and intervening in the internal affairs of countless countries actually HURTS America.


Beancounter - if the vast majority of the people in these foreign countries really wanted us out, we'd be out. The vast majority of American forces overseas are in countries that have democracies (ie. Japan, UK, Germany, Italy, Turkey); the people in these countries, if they wanted us out, would have voted in elected representatives a long time ago who would've in turn voted to get American forces out...so you're wrong, plain & simple.

Account Deleted

I think this is a great idea, if for only two reasons: setting an example for the rest of the country, and saving money for fuel. And that latter won't be only in the fleets; think of all the shore-based naval installations and their not-inconsiderable fuel demands.

I also like the sea change in military thinking, and that doesn't apply only to the Navy. Recall how our high command resisted increasing airpower after WWI (such as putting impossible requirements on General Billy Mitchell when he was trying to persuade the brass to expand aviation assest). Or the thinking of calvary officers in the 1930's, who ruled the day; they mocked armor. (Patton taught them the error of their ways, with a helping hand from Rommel.)

Today, the military is leading the way, and doing so in so *many* ways. Look at the stuff coming out of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) -- the Skunk Works of the armed forces.

The *only* point at which I paused was when the Secretary made the point that fuel savings would allow the Navy to buy another aircraft. As a taxpayer, that's fine by me -- as long as there is a strategic need to *buy* another aircraft in the first place.

BTW, some have made a point of saying the best way to save is to stay home. In the first place, a Fortress America is about as dangerous a possibility imaginable. In the second place, as others have already noted, we *do* leave when asked. I live in Thailand, where there was a large U.S. military presence during the Vietnam War. After that ended, the Thais wanted us out -- and we left. (Not me personally; I've never been in the military, though had I been, Vietnam would have been my war.)

I hadn't known about the Secretary's speech, so was glad to read this.

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