Senate measure could dry-dock 'Great Green Fleet'
Congressional spending proposals could stand in the way of the military deploying the “Great Green Fleet”
Published: Jun 25, 2012
Congressional spending proposals could stand in the way of the military deploying the “Great Green Fleet” -- in retired Lt. General John Castellaw’s view, a critical mission in the battle for energy security.
This summer, the U.S. Navy is set to conduct Hawaiian demonstrations of an aircraft carrier strike group that runs on “clean energy” and biofuels, paving the way for the fleet’s official deployment tentatively scheduled for 2016.
Beyond testing biofuels performance, the trial will help the Navy gauge the logistics of transferring renewable fuels from ship to ship. That would enable the military to “move away from a single source of energy,” said Castellaw, a retired Marine officer and president of the Tennessee-based Crockett Policy Institute. “What that leads to is increasing our security,” he argued in an RFD Radio-FarmWeek interview.
The military’s commitment could play a key role in speeding development of next-generation biofuels. But American Farm Bureau Federation policy specialist Andrew Walmsley told FarmWeek the program is “essentially in limbo,” with the Senate poised to review defense spending proposals that would block funding.
Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) are spearheading opposition to the initiative, and Walmsley noted hopes for a “fix” on the Senate floor.
“We’re making our case on the Hill,” Castellaw reported. “We need to make sure the Senate understands the importance of having the Department of Defense continue to buy biofuel to use. And we’re talking about security on several levels.
“It takes $70 billion-plus a year to protect (global) lines of oil shipments and north of $15 million to pay for the Department of Defense’s fuel. When we operate in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq, fuel and sometimes the lack of it, impacts our ability to operate.”
The military “has been involved in developing everything from the Internet to airplanes,” benefiting the commercial and public sectors, Castellaw noted.
Gary Luce, CEO of the biofuel firm Terrabon, argued the military as a buyer provides a reliable partner that can inspire confidence in investors needed to take advance biofuels production to a commercial scale.
Terrabon’s eyed more than 30 biofuels feedstocks, including corn stover, miscanthus, switchgrass, and municipal solid wastes. One of its partners is Waste Management, a waste collection/disposal corporation Luce sees as primed to move “from an environmental services industry to an energy industry.”
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