US navy veterans urge Congress to fund ‘critical’ green fleet programme

NOTE: The question of green fuels for the military is an especially sticky one for progressives and environmentalists to wrestle with. As one synbio critic put it, “Do we stand with the Republicans, who think Venter-Exxon-type biofuel enterprises are a scam, or the Democrats, who want to make our military dollars go further, so we can police the world and destroy our enemies mre efficiently, with less damage to the environement?” — Synbiowatch

Cross-posted from the Guardian UK

Hundreds of military veterans joined the fight to keep the US navy’s “green
fleet” afloat on Tuesday, calling on the White House and Congress to fund
military research on alternative fuels.

A letter, signed by about 380 retired generals, admirals and other military
officials, urges Congress to drop plans to bar the navy from research on
biofuels, or from buying fuels which cost more than traditional diesel or
jet fuel.

Republicans in Congress are demanding the navy scrap its research on
biofuels, arguing the fuels are prohibitively expensive, and a diversion
from more urgent security needs.

The veterans, pushing back, said such research was critical to national
security. “As a country, we must support efforts inside and outside the
department of defence to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, deploy clean
energy technology and move our nation toward energy independence,” the
letter said.

“It is vital to our national security, our economic security, and our
obligation to the brave men and women in uniform who serve in missions
around the world.”

Two former marine generals, meeting a small group of reporters at the Pew
project on national security, energy and climate, argued the research was in
line with a core Pentagon priority of reducing the military’s use of fossil
fuel. Military strategists have argued for a decade that fuel convoys in
Iraq and Afghanistan exposed US forces to great risk from IEDs and ambushes.

John Warner, a former navy secretary and the Republican chair of the Senate
armed services committee, said the biofuels project should be viewed as a
top security priority. He also said the navy needed just $11m over the next
year to see how military equipment runs on the fuel.

“The department of defence should be looking at the widest possible
diversity of fuel sources,” he said. “We should continue to allow the
department to move ahead with its innovation.”

The Pentagon has been working to green its bases and operations for a number
of years, installing solar panels on wind turbines on bases, and testing
energy saving measures on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

But the Navy’s testing of biofuels in its jet fighters and ships became
politically toxic late last year when it emerged it was paying $15 per
gallon to blend used chicken fat and algae with conventional fuels.

The navy successfully deployed a strike force powered on a 50-50 mix of
conventional fuels, used cooking oil and algae.

Republicans said such projects are wasteful. But General John Castellaw,
chief of staff at Central Command during the Iraq war, argued the
demonstration voyage proved the new fuels were a viable alternative to
diesel and jet fuel. The navy’s demand for such fuels would eventually
create economies of scale, bringing down prices.

“Many have criticised the military for moving out to alternative fuel,” he
said. “This is something that is going to get traction as long as we stay on
the glide path that gets us to the end of the decade where we should be on a
commercial scale when it comes to biofuels production.”