A U.S. Navy destroyer that’s part of the so-called “Green Fleet” has gotten an Italian energy company to power its ships with fuel mixed with small amounts of biofuel as part of the Navy’s plan to use less oil.
Italy’s Eni oil company provided the U.S.S. Mason, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, with fuel that’s blended with 5.5 percent palm oil biofuel. The fuel cost about $2.20 per gallon, but it’s cost is low because it’s made of mostly cheap oil.
“It’s a first today,” U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Reuters while standing aboard the Mason. “But it’s the new normal. It’s what you’re going to see – refueling after refueling after refueling.”
Since 2009, the Obama administration has been promoting its “Green Fleet” as a model for how the military can become less reliant on oil, which they say is too volatile. The administration and environmentalists have been trying to get the Navy to use more biofuels.
“Fuel can be used as a weapon,” Mabus said. “All you have to do is look at what Russia did to Crimea, what Russia did to the Ukraine. Look at what Russia tried to do to Europe before the price of oil went down.”
Fueling a fleet purely with biofuel is an expensive proposition, especially with crude oil prices now under $50 a barrel.
Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize the the Navy’s biofueled fleet over the high cost of trying to switch from oil to biofuels. The biofuels used in a Navy’s Green Fleet demonstration in 2012 ran at about $27 per gallon, compared to about $3.50 per gallon for conventional fuels at the time.
The Green Fleet officially deployed in January 2016, but don’t let their green image fool you. The fleet is running on diesel that’s blended with 10 percent biofuels, mostly from beef tallow.
The Obama administration originally wanted a 50-50 ratio of biofuel to diesel, but the more biofuel blended into fuels, the less energy dense that fuel becomes. That also keeps the costs down from using higher blends of biofuels.
But the cost of fuel is only the tip of the cost-berg. The Navy has spent $210 million building biofuel refineries to power its green fleet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has doled out $161 million in crop subsidies to support biofuel
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