The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Navy signed a Memo of Understanding on Thursday with the goal of developing renewable energy resources like biofuels. The Navy has been increasing its focus on energy reform, and this is the latest idea designed to push the largest naval fleet in the world into a new era.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the partnership will entail "sharing technical, program management and financial expertise" toward the development of renewable energy resources. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said this is part of a general vision for energy reform, but the Navy's own press release states that "Mabus' overarching goal is to increase warfighting capability." So we want to get better at killing people, but hey, let's save the planet while we're at it.
Because fuel costs can soar to extreme heights in war zones and during times of crisis, the Navy has recently set a series of targets involving energy reform. According to the press release, these are:
- When awarding contracts, appropriately consider energy efficiency and the energy footprint as additional factors in acquisition decisions.
- By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel. By 2016, sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.
- By 2015, cut petroleum use in its 50,000 non-tactical commercial fleet in half, by phasing in hybrid, flex fuel and electric vehicles.
- By 2020, produce at least half of shore based installations' energy requirements from alternative sources. Also 50 percent of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers.
- By 2020, half of DoN's total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative sources.
This certainly falls in the category of lipstick-on-a-pig kinds of issues, in that I would rather the military wasn't spending billions of dollars every year figuring out better and more efficient ways to blow up other countries. That being said, the Navy does have an enormous fleet of ships—not to mention more than 3,700 aircraft—that uses an enormous amount of fuel, and I would rather they figure out decent fuel alternatives than not. Who knows what practical progress will come out of a "Memo of Understanding," but it does seem that the military might be trending toward some cleaner energy alternatives.
Follow Dave Levitan on Twitter @davelevitan.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.