A red flag for the ‘great green fleet’

A red flag for the ‘great green fleet’

House Armed Services Committee Republicans pounced Thursday on the Navy Department’s push to use more alternative fuel, faulting the effort as a bad use of money in a time of constricting budgets.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sparred with member after member over the course of an otherwise humdrum budget hearing, arguing that today’s high upfront costs for biofuels and alternative energy will ultimately pay off in better science and “energy independence” for tomorrow’s fleet.

Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes kicked off the offensive with a performance worthy of “Clear and Present Danger.” He pounded his fist on his desk and stabbed his finger at the Washington Post, demanding why the Navy would buy fuel at such a premium instead of using it to build ships or for other priorities.  Back in the old days, the Navy’s goal used to be 600 ships, Forbes said, but today its fleet is shrinking even as China’s grows. He did everything but bellow, How dare you, sir?


The Navy Department has set and then broken its own records for the amounts of money it has paid for fuel. In joint efforts with the Department of Agriculture and others, it has paid hundreds of millions of dollars for batches of biofuel in a deliberate bid to jumpstart its production. Because the government must cover all the research, development and production costs for alternative fuels, it can wind up costing $20 per gallon, as compared to around $3.00 per gallon for standard aviation fuel.

Mabus basically shrugged, saying this year’s budget submission would keep the fleet at a steady size and eventually grow it from 285 to 300 ships. He said he thought it was worthwhile for the Navy to spend money to grow the alternative fuels industry to a size at which it could theoretically price fuel at a competitive rate with petroleum. And at very least, he said, a reliable supply of biofuel, even one more expensive than petroleum, could protect the Navy Department from “price shocks,” like the one that hit it last year around the time of the turmoil in Libya.

“Every time oil goes up a dollar, it costs the Navy $31 million,” Mabus said.

When it was his turn, Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway picked up Forbes’ line of attack. Then Virginia Republican Rep. Scott Rigell. Then Georgia Republican Austin Scott, who tied Mabus’ support for alternative energy to President Obama’s renewable energy commitments from his State of the Union address. Renewable energy accounts for less than 10 precent of the electricity used throughout the world, Scott said, “and the reason is the cost.” He asked how the Navy and Marine Corps would cover the expense of using more alternative energy for shore installations at a time when they were delaying programs and cutting their forces.

Mabus said there would be no extra expense — bases would either buy power off the grid or use their own alternative ways of generating it. He also tried to parry Scott’s question by going back to something asked by New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, who warned about vulnerability to a cyber-attack on the nation’s power grid. If Navy and Marine Corps bases are energy-independent, Mabus said, it might mean they could operate in a crisis even if the larger electrical grid was down. The Navy Department is studying “micro-grids,” he said, so groups of bases could keep operating in the even of a larger failure.

It was hard to know what to make of Thursday’s squall — whether it presages more skirmishes about spending here v. spending there or whether it was just election-year performance art for hometown TV cameras. But it seemed unlikely anyone walked away from the hearing with their mind changed.

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Solyndra, Chevy Volts on fire, wind farms, super expensive biofuels the whole “green energy” edifice is crumbling. And yes it is a waste of money for the Navy to prop up these biofuel companies I would bet money that we will see that big Obama donors are somehow benefiting just like Solyndra and other now bankrupt “green” companies.

The USN and the rest of the DoD are all doing the right thing. We can’t leave expeditionary operations vulnerable to the whims of foreign despots and high-demand, high price markets. Nor should we favor “big oil” interests over the lives of logisticians that are increasingly at risk in asymmetric wars with no front lines. The vulnerability of our military installations is a risk we must manage, too. Finally, let’s not kid ourselves about the economics arguments. Our Navy is too small for many reasons; going to “cheaper” oil isn’t going to undo years of poor acquisitions and bad execution by industry. Assuming we could find the sailor to staff more ships, how many more vessels would conventional fuel buy us?

“Every time the price of oil goes goes up $1, it costs the navy $1 million.” So why on earth would they voluntarily pay $26.75 a gallon for fuel that normally costs $2.25 a gallon? That is the amount the Navy just paid for 450,000 gallons of biofuel to be delivered this year.

I agree the Navy need to spend more money on new Destroyers not making Environmental Hippies Happy.

Secretary Mabus is full of it. This is so completely political it isn’t even worth entertaining. If the DoD wanted secure cheap fuel, it need only invest in driving down the costs of our own vast oil shale reserves.

How about the other “green”? Nuclear power. Replace the Ticonderogas with a new class of CGNs.

That’s something I can support. But don’t forget about the destroyers and the America class as well.

Precisely, I can’t believe he said all of that with a straight face.

All this green stuff is just Democrat crap. Mabus is the SecNav that has named ships after John Murtha and Gabby Giffords, who are not military heros.

Somehow many greenies still have a fear of nuclear power even though other countries use it to produce the majority of their electrical power (France).

The most interesting part of Forbe’s argument on Thursday is that it is a very similar argument one hears from officers in the Navy. I cannot remember the last time I heard a Congressman spend his 5 minutes making an argument most commonly heard from Navy officers. Usually that time is spent making arguments on behalf of constituents, like industry — which is what almost every other Congressman in the same hearing did.

Forbes clearly has his finger on the pulse of the Navy, and has an inside track on what is going on better than any Representtive I can remember observing in the House. It reminds me a bit of how Ted Kennedy used to have the inside track on happenings inside the bubble.

I’m not sure what it means for SECNAV, but he had a very difficult day at the office, and based on how high he jumped after naming the LCS after Gabby Giffords, this was clearly not a good week for SECNAV.

Rep. Langevin is from Rhode Island, not New Hampshire.

Why does Obama still carry a 50% approval rate? Because half of Americans are either totally ignorant of what he’s doing to our country or they know and want to see our demise.

The only alternative “green” solution is nuclear powered ship. With the new designs they have now they will
last the lifetime of the hull, no need for mid-life refueling and their maintenance and watch-standing requirements are much lower too.

They’ll cost more to build but they offer several huge advantages:

–Unlimited range
–Indefinite high speed cruising (can keep up with the carrier). In wartime this will be a critical ability.
–No need to chase oilers around all over the world and there’s no need to protect the oilers. In a time of war the oilers will become strategic assets– i.e priceless.
–Huge dollar savings on fuel over the lifetime of the ship
–Eliminate sfuel cost drain on our budgets
–Eliminate risk of unstable and unpredictable fuel costs and supplies
–Most important of all-we’ll stop sending money (for oil) to the Middle east.

It’s amazing to read the comments here and see the lack of interest in moving our country off of foreign oil. Do the posters here agree that purchasing the volumes of foreign oil from unstable and hostile regions of the world is a threat-multiplier for our armed forces? We need to shift change and the Navy is forward thinking in doing so.

I can understand that folks might not prefer renewable energy because it’s more expensive, but I’d personally be happy to pay a premium for homegrown renewable energy and biofuels if i knew it meant less risk to the Navy trying to secure petroleum routes, putting lives at risk and funneling energy dollars to hostile countries that turn around and use those funds to cause chaos. I think the Navy feels the same way. I don’t think it’s about being green, but about shifting our national security thinking. I think that needs to be done.

Cliff, I think it needs to start somewhere. Biofuels can be competitive someday, but they need to start somewhere and there needs to be a market for them. Just like the price of home computers and cell phones have come down with the scaling up of markets, biofuels can come down as well. I personally think that will be a good strategic choice for our military — to be able to pay for fuels grown here in the United States.

And even if not… how much premium would you pay on fuel to ensure that it didn’t come from a hostile part of the world that considers the US to be a sworn enemy and will use those funds to inflict harm? I’d surely pay a lot more for my gas or fuel. we should realize that the price per gallon of gas doesn’t accurately represent the human cost that’s embedded in there.

Personally I say screw buying biofuels maybe help Fund there research a little bit but maybe the navy should spend more money on helping get the resources to
Be able to buy American oil.

we have plenty of our own oil jb, we can be the next OPEC, we just need to get it out of the ground

There is not a lack of interest in moving off foreign oil, but every time we talk about tapping domestic oil, we hear, “Oh that would take 10 years to get to market”. Well, if we don’t start, we will never get there. The US sits on an estimated 100 year supply of domestic energy and does nothing but waste money on the “renewable” energy sources that we can not afford.

Domestic crude oil production is expected to grow by more than 20 percent over the coming decade and last year, under the Obama Administration, we relied less on foreign oil than any time in the past 16 years. We can continue that trend by investing in domestic oil production and alternative fuels like biofuels, but neither can do the trick alone.

See Energy Information Administration testimony on page 3: http://​energy​.senate​.gov/​p​u​b​l​i​c​/​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​G​r​u​e​n​s​p​ech

I’d like to see your figures of where this oil is. I agree there is plenty of oil and if you look at another post of mine, under the current Administration, you’ll see that we are set to increase production by about 20%. Even so, we will never be self-sufficient in terms of oil.

The United States consumes an average of 20 million barrels of oil per day (according to the Department of Energy). [FYI… Of that, about 45 percent is used for motor gasoline. Each barrel of oil contains 42 gallons, which yields 19 to 20 gallons of gasoline. So, in the United States, something like 178 million gallons of gasoline is consumed every day.]

20 million barrels of oil per day multiplied by 365 days is about 7.3 billion barrels/year. Estimates I’ve seen show about 50 billion barrels available in the United States. And that doesn’t account for “how available” since some is more difficult to extract than others, and therefore more costly. <&lt ;http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​i​l​e​:​T​o​t​a​l​_​o​i​l​_​m​e​a​n​_​0​8​_​0​0​0​1​.​p​n​g​&​g​t​;​&​a​m​p​;gt;

But let’s say you get all 50 billion barrels. That’s enough for eight years of oil at our current consumption. And i think most would agree that consumption is increasing.

We need more than just domestic oil. I’m all for it, but let’s be aware we need to do other fuels if we’re going to stop using the gas pump as a middle man for terrorists.

Thanks

I can understand that folks might not prefer renewable energy because it’s more expensive, but I’d personally be happy to pay a premium for homegrown renewable energy and biofuels if i knew it meant less risk to the Navy trying to secure petroleum routes, putting lives at risk and funneling energy dollars to hostile countries that turn around and use those funds to cause chaos. I think the Navy feels the same way. I don’t think it’s about being green, but about shifting our national security thinking. I think that needs to be done.

Cliff, I think it needs to start somewhere. Biofuels can be competitive someday, but they need to start somewhere and there needs to be a market for them. Just like the price of home computers and cell phones have come down with the scaling up of markets, biofuels can come down as well. I personally think that will be a good strategic choice for our military — to be able to pay for fuels grown here in the United States.

And even if not… how much premium would you pay on fuel to ensure that it didn’t come from a hostile part of the world that considers the US to be a sworn enemy and will use those funds to inflict harm? I’d surely pay a lot more for my gas or fuel. we should realize that the price per gallon of gas doesn’t accurately represent the human cost that’s embedded in there.

I’d like to see your figures, BigRick. Figures I’ve seen show that the US has about 50 billion barrels of oil in the US. Some of that oil is probably more expensive and difficult to extract than others. But considering our current consumption of oil is about 20 million barrels of oil a day (20 million x 365 = 7.3bn/year), that’s about 7 years worth of oil. Not exactly a lifetime supply if you ask me.

We need to do more to diversify fuel sources. We’re Americans and can find a way to do it.

Dan, please see the post earlier. I don’t know where you’re getting the figures for 100 year supply of oil.

The Us geological department. That’s the conservative estimate of the recoverable oil from oil shale in the west. That doesn’t include current off shore and yet to be tapped off shore supplies. I don’t know how you could state an opinion about foreign oil and not know about oil shale.

We relied less on oil the last few years because of a little thing called the recession.

great, so show me the figures for that.

You all are so short sighted it would be impossible to have an educated argument.

You think the CIA is ok with the US using all our own natural resources?

What a joke that argument is, how much does it cost to get oil 2 miles below the surface of the sea?

Biofuel is American Oil genius.

Educated argument? Hey genius, oil shale is under the western states, not the ocean.

“While oil shale is found in many places worldwide, by far the largest deposits in the world are found in the United States in the Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Estimates of the oil resource in place within the Green River Formation range from 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels. Not all resources in place are recoverable; however, even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Present U.S. demand for petroleum products is about 20 million barrels per day. If oil shale could be used to meet a quarter of that demand, the estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from the Green River Formation would last for more than 400 years1.“
http://​ostseis​.anl​.gov/​g​u​i​d​e​/​o​i​l​s​h​a​le/
http://​fossil​.energy​.gov/​p​r​o​g​r​a​m​s​/​r​e​s​e​r​v​e​s​/​n​p​r​/Oi

I guess we’re lucky that the Manhattan Project didn’t go in front of that board of Republican luminaries or they would have denounced it as a stupid idea to waste billions of dollars on the guesses of a few scientists. Which is exactly what the atomic bomb project was at the beginning, a very expensive gamble.

Oil shale is not a viable alternative. The oil in it is recoverable, but at such a huge price both financially and to the environment that it might as well be on the moon. Why do you think it’s been left in the ground up to this point? The oil companies know very well what a nightmare it would be to get that stuff out. Oh well, I guess you and the others chanting “oil shale, oil shale” here know much, much more than ExxonMobil.

The US military is working on designs for new mini-reactors for powering large bases and the like. Some very interesting designs are being proposed. And don’t blindly assume that all “environmentalists” are against nuclear power. Nuclear fuel is a non-renewable resource, but it’s carbon-neutral, and there’s enough of it there to buy us a few decades’ time to perfect fully renewable sources of power.

And it’s all worthless. So worthless that Shell abandoned some of its leases, citing economic reasons.

The extraction process involves heating enormous quantities of rock to very high temperatures and using two to five barrels of water for every barrel of oil extracted. Where’s the water to come from?

You really need to move to something a bit more complex than “gee, this rock has oil in it!” Right now it’s a little like saying seawater has gold in it that can be extracted. That’s true too, but no one is doing it because it wouldn’t pay. Same with shale oil. Do you doubt the wisdom of the free market?

It’s been left in the ground because development on how to extract it was stopped. Oil shale is very recoverable and it’s being left in the ground because of politics, not technology or value.

Your opinion is dated, estimates are that for industry alone are that it is profitable with oil prices at $60 to $75 a barrel currently, and the days of oil priced that low are long gone. It’s over $100 now and if there is any sort of uptick in the US economy it will only go up. If there is further instability in the middle east, it will go up. As China’s economy grows it will go up.

Bio fuel is not environment friendly either. The increase demand would result in changes in agriculture that would very much impact the environment negatively. The spike in grain prices also caused food costs to rise and essentially is contributing to starvation as aid agencies have less money to feed people around the world, so this notion that bio fuel is some wonderful happy pain free alternative is BS.

“But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability.

This year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence. Prices rose 15 percent from October to January alone, potentially “throwing an additional 44 million people in low– and middle-income countries into poverty,” the World Bank said. “
http://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​1​1​/​0​4​/​0​7​/​s​c​i​e​n​c​e​/​e​a​r​t​h/0

that analogy is just plain silly sagesource, we were at war fighting for the very survival of our country and we were looking for a way to end it quicker

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense contractors and military servicemembers. It’s because 20% of Americans are drawing a check from the government. But that happens in both Democratic and Republican administration. Support the status quo when the other side wants to cut it down.

I post a quote and some links and get two thumbs down, interesting. I guess facts or proof have no place in the green world.

We depend on Persian Gulf oil for a whole 3.6 percent of our energy. We could buy that small fraction from Nigeria or Venezuela or domestically if we wanted to. We actually contribute to the world’s stability by diversifying our purchases across different regions of the globe. The world’s proved reserves of oil today total more 1.5 times the total amount so far extracted from the Earth, and are growing since 2007 the rate of 1.6 barrels per barrel consumed. There is no Hubbert peak, just boom and bust cycles of oil being too plentiful and cheap for the oil companies to make big capital investments, then the reserves decreasing enough to spike the speculators into profiteering panics, and then everybody going on a drilling spree and collapsing the prices with overproduction again. Read The Prize, or The Quest, or The Age of Oil to learn some history and to think for yourself and understand what’s really going on instead of trusting your favorite ignorant politician to tell you what to believe and what to do.

right on ST,
the “greens” won’t be happy until everyone (but the ruling elite of course) is working on beet farms wearing hemp sack cloth and smoking (government mandated) weed in their bare feet-then will everything be perfect!

Funny you should mention that bigrick…we are at war right now. The enemies are militant islamic extreemests hell bent on jihad funded mostly by petro-dollars. One with an open view might very well say the second part of your comment is the exact reason why we need alternative fuel sources.

Because $26.75/gallon is a low volume production cost of biofuels; if the Navy gets to the rate of production to supply the whole fleet, the price will get lower. By the time they get to that point, price of normal fuel will be $5/gallon and they’ll have a less volatile, more predictable price in the same ballpark. A fuel source not dependent on nations we could potentially be fighting against and not as prone to rapidly change due to a single commodity market.

Assuming we can get the oil out of the ground without unaceptable environmental impact, it will be sold on a global market, to the highest bidder. And make no mistake, North America is a mature market in many respects, including conventional fuel. I’m all for solutions that help hedge risk and keep our loggies out of as much danger as possible. None of this requires the free love, drug use and other social ills claimed to be part of the alternative fuel set.

exactly Chad, we have all of the “alternative fuel sources” we need right here in the good ‘ol USA (and Canada) but we won’t get it-we could be the next OPEC if we really wanted it

Make major combatants go nuclear. Turn decommed nuclear ships into floating refineries cracking seawater for hydrogen, and use hydrogen for DDGs and smaller ships, and for aviation. No biofuel. No coal. No nonsense. That will get us off foreign oil, and maybe the rest of the country will finally see sense and follow suit

The use of alternative fuel will save us billions of dollars on imported oil in the long run. That save dollars will in turn can be used for the navy, army, airforce, marine, coast guard, and the country. It can help lower the foreign dept and deficits in the futue. We should spare the benefits it can bring to the economy.

I am for both green energy and 600 navy ships and boats or more. We need this. Iran and North Korea could still be a threat.

Becouse 50% of the voters don’t work and are given goverment hand outs to not work.

There’s a solution to this not being explored: nuclear. The subs and carriers are already nuclear and that’s been working wonderfully for 60+ years and the proof of concept cruisers and destroyers have already been built and retired because oil was too cheap then to justify the upfront cost of the more expensive ship which essential never had to be refueled.

Biofuel is a dead end. It costs more to make, causes more pollution, eats up our food crop for fuel, and has no benefit in the end. Hydrogenfor vehicles and nuclear for the grid are the only viable solution.

If your alternative is hydrogen produced by nuclear power, yes. if your alternative is biofuel, we’ll be billions more in the hole, with no reduction in pollution.

Which can then be used to power the bases off of the reactors should such a fiasco such as the local grid going down actually happen.

- from a former Navy nuke submariner.

I’m not sure if you’re aware that decommed nuclear ships have already been dismantled and the reactor components sent to Hanford for disposal but now you are. Rebuilding them would cost more than building new plants.

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