An Obama appointment to the U.S. Navy is making good on his pledge to force ‚Äúgreen‚ÄĚ fuels on the Navy ‚ÄĒ despite the costs to the budget and to military readiness.
As many observers feared when retired Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn was named as the service branch‚Äôs ‚Äúenergy chief,‚ÄĚ McGinn is using the Navy‚Äôs budget to prop up an industry that should have withered on the vine a long time ago ‚ÄĒ inefficient, expensive ‚Äúbiofuels.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe Department of Defense (DOD) paid $150 per gallon for alternative jet fuel made from algae, more than 64 times the current market price for standard carbon-based fuels, according to a report released on Wednesday,‚ÄĚ the Washington Free Beacon reported last week. ‚ÄúGAO‚Äôs report examined the financial challenges facing increased purchases and use of alternative jet fuels by federal agencies. ‚ÄėCurrently, the price for alternative jet fuels exceeds that of conventional jet fuel,‚Äô‚ÄĚ the report noted. ‚ÄúThe price for conventional jet fuel is currently $2.88 per gallon. GAO‚Äôs report reveals that federal agencies have paid significantly higher prices in an effort to promote biofuels in commercial and military aviation.‚ÄĚ
But that‚Äôs not the Navy‚Äôs mission ‚ÄĒ the Navy‚Äôs job is to defend U.S. interests as effectively as possible, not to ‚Äúpromote‚ÄĚ biofuels.
This isn‚Äôt a surprise to many. In 2013, McGinn left his private sector job as president and chief executive of the American Council of Renewable Energy to return to the Pentagon. He made his intentions clear on the Council‚Äôs website.
‚ÄúThe military has a long, distinguished history of driving innovation and major economic transitions in this country, whether it‚Äôs in aviation, communications, or even the Internet,‚ÄĚ he wrote on that group‚Äôs blog. ‚ÄúLawmakers must understand that future spending authorizations on sustainable fuels enhance the U.S. military‚Äôs efforts to keep America safer and, in turn, spur economic and job growth across the country.‚ÄĚ
But that‚Äôs just it ‚ÄĒ biofuels, including fuels made from algae, accomplish none of his goals.
It‚Äôs certainly not ‚Äúgreen.‚ÄĚ The fuel ‚ÄĒ which, according to Reuters, is ‚Äúsqueezed from seeds, algae and chicken fat‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ takes far more energy to produce it than it produces itself. Most biofuel production causes ‚Äúhigh levels of greenhouse gas emissions,‚ÄĚ according to RAND Corporation researcher James Bartis, who has studied the Navy‚Äôs efforts.
Using the Navy to try to force blue-sky technologies is wrong.
As the Heritage Foundation‚Äôs David Kreutzer points out, ‚ÄúAs a strategic policy, switching the military to biofuels can only make our enemies think we are not serious.‚ÄĚ
That‚Äôs certainly the message we sent the so-called ‚ÄúGreen Fleet‚ÄĚ of biofuel-powered ships across the Pacific in 2012.
‚ÄúThe 900,000 gallons of the biofuel blend used during the Great Green Fleet demo cost about $13 million ‚ÄĒ four times that cost of petroleum,‚ÄĚ Forbes magazine pointed out at the time.
The Navy‚Äôs stated goal of obtaining a full 50 percent of its fuel from ‚Äúgreen‚ÄĚ sources by 2020 will only make matters worse. Either the budget will spike upward, or Navy accountants will have to find savings someplace else.
And that could mean a hit to readiness.