Congress questions efficiency of Navy biofuels

Melissa Quinn Contributor
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“Keeping the Earth Green, One Bag of Biofuel at a Time.”

The slogan is sprawled on dozens of t-shirts and hats hailing the efforts — eco-friendly efforts — of the Great Green Fleet. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the purpose of the ships is to decrease the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.

Despite growing criticism from House and Senate leaders in Washington, the navy paraded the Great Green Fleet around the Pacific, handing out pro-biofuel paraphernalia to onlookers and chauffeuring the media around in eco-friendly planes.

On Wednesday Mabus’ Great Green Fleet made its debut at the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise, the world’s largest display of maritime warfare, to a crowd of more than 25,000 military personnel — both foreign and domestic.

The navy showcased its fleet of ships and planes filled with biofuel — an accomplishment that has the Navy and Obama administration gushing over the switch to alternative energy but has Congress worried about its efficiency.

Members of both parties of the House Armed Services Committee worry the eco-friendly ships and planes would cost more than conventional petroleum and jet fuel, and may be up to five percent less efficient than the fuel currently being used.

“Alternative energy is a great thing for us to do research on and keep on the horizon,” Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes told The Daily Caller. “But what we should not be doing is spending millions in taxpayer money.”

One bag of biofuel is likely to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the Department of Defense is facing possible cuts of more than $1 trillion come January. The ships and planes on display at RIMPAC were powered by a mix of animal fat and algae, and came with a hefty price tag — $15 per gallon compared to traditional diesel’s $4 per gallon.

Mabus first announced the Great Green Fleet in 2009, but remained quiet on progress until this week. Congress is demanding an analysis of the benefits of using bio-fuel. The navy has yet to present a proper evaluation.

In June the Air Force began soliciting firms to create drop-in replacement biofuels for the Great Green Fleet, with all solicitations to be completed by August. Together with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy, the Department of Defense has committed to investing up to $510 million in an Integrated Biofuels Production Enterprise.

The IBPE is projected to be divided into two phases. Funding will be managed by the Defense Department.

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