|Runnng on empty
The Department of the Navy is providing the market share for the nation's nascent biofuel industry as part of a White House initiative to kick-start the alternative energy sector, administration officials announced Aug. 16.As I have noted in previous posts (see Baloney at the Navy Top: "We use too much fossil fuel", Shale Gas and U.S. National Security), the U. S. has plenty of domestic energy which is being and can be developed further without taking money from the Navy and giving a "special deal" to the biofuels people who have already spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
The Navy, in partnership with the departments of Energy and Agriculture, is working with the private sector to create a sustainable U.S.-based alternative energy industry as part of a plan President Barack Obama announced in March to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, announced the latest part of the plan in a conference call with reporters Aug. 16.
Under the plan, the Navy, Agriculture and Energy departments will share equally in a $510 million investment over three years -- estimated at half the private sector's cost -- in the production of advanced "drop-in" aviation and marine biofuels, which can be used with existing fuels to power military and commercial vehicles, they said.
The White House's Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council will oversee the initiative with the simultaneous goal of boosting America's rural economies, they said.
"America's long-term national security depends upon a commercially viable domestic biofuels market that will benefit taxpayers while simultaneously giving sailors and Marines tactical and strategic advantages," Mabus said.
"Having energy independence in the United States is one of the most important things we can do from a security standpoint," he added.
The United States imports more than $300 billion in crude oil annually, and "price shocks and supply shocks" of the international oil market are "too much for the military to sustain," Mabus said. Every dollar per barrel increase in oil adds $30 million annually to the Navy budget, he said.
"Today's announcement not only leverages our home-grown fuel sources to support our national security, but it also helps advance the biofuels market, which ultimately brings down the cost of biofuels for everyone," Mabus added.
The initiative is in line with Mabus' goal to cut in half the Navy's oil usage by 2025, and supply its growing use of biofuels, which the secretary estimated at 8 million gallons per year.
"We've already flown an F/A-18 on biofuels," said Mabus. "We've flown a MV-22 Osprey on a mixture of biofuels and petroleum. We've tested our riverine craft, are sea hawk helicopters, so we are, well down the road to making sure we meet this goal tactically and strategically."
"The Navy can be the market," Mabus said. "We have a big need for biofuels. It will make us better warfighters, it will save lives, and it will reduce a vulnerability in our military that we simply shouldn't have."
The Energy Department already supports 29 biofuels projects in which producers manufacture fuels from cellulosic feedstalks -- wood, grasses and nonedible parts of plants, Chu said. Under the initiative, there can be no negative impact on U.S. food supply, they said.
The initiative is important, the secretaries said, to diversify the nation's energy supply, remove risk from the burgeoning biofuels industry, and create economic opportunities in recession-hit parts of the country.
The departments plan to release a request for proposals soon from biofuel manufacturers, and Mabus said the Navy conducted the largest-yet biofuels request of 450,000 gallons in a bid last spring.
"There is a market there that is real, that is solid," he said of producers, and added that it is growing enough that prices already are starting to decline.
The Navy will "repurpose existing funds" for its $170 million share of the investment, Mabus said. "It's a matter of setting priorities," he added.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus laid out five aggressive energy goals in October 2009 to improve the Navy's energy security and efficiency, increase the Navy's energy independence, and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy. This initiative assists in achieving the energy goal of increasing alternative energy afloat and ashore where by 2020, 50 percent of the total Department of the Navy energy consumption will come alternative sources.
Instead, the administration prefers to attack the gas and oil energy industry for receiving special "tax breaks" while taking tax money better spent on ship and aircraft repair and giving it to different politically-favored gaggle of "projects."
As I said in prior post:
The problem is not that we use too much fossil fuel, the problem is that we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on imported fossil fuel, despite sitting on the world's largest deposits of "fossil fuels."If every dollar increase in a barrel of oil adds $30 million to the Navy budget, perhaps, now that the price of a barrel of oil has dropped, we should be stocking up . . . at current prices, assuming that oil is $10 a barrel lower than it has been, the Navy has "saved" $300, 000, 000. [Using Sec Mabus's $1bbl figure to assume Navy usage of 30 million barrels]. That's enough to build a ship. He should be celebrating!
It is the importation of foreign oil that is a strategic issue, not their use. It's the long lines of commerce that bring oil to our shore that are vulnerable.
If there is "a market that is real, that is solid" for biofuel, as Sec. Mabus asserts, then there is absolutely no need for this money to be diverted in this fashion.
I have no problem with the development and use of biofuels, I just think the Navy has little or no business funding them to "remove risk from the burgeoning biofuels industry" - if it's a real "market" then let that market work.
And let the existing energy industry assist us in being energy independent. "Drill, baby, drill" is not just a political slogan, it's a way to energy independence while allowing the scientists to work their way toward biofuel heaven.
Let these "projects" bid on the same basis as all the other energy providers. Let them develop the pipeline, storage tanks and associated equipment necessary to make delivery of the fuels they can provide.
I can't wait to see how we handle refueling our ships and aircraft around the world with this stuff. Will we have a fleet of new Navy oilers carrying only the finest vintage biofuels following each of our ships? Or will we still be buying fuel in foreign ports, using "carbon based" fuels when deployed while keeping up the pretense of "green-ness" domestically? Potemkin ships?
One final thought. The energy markets are global, so that if the U.S. does succeed in becoming energy independent by using biofuel, those nasty old oil and gas products being sold to us will simply be sold to some other country with an appetite for energy and an indifference to the environment. The net result will not be much of an improvement in the "clean energy economy", will it?