Green is Navy’s new color with fleet initiative

The Navy launched its year-long green initiative that will use alternative fuels and procurement practices to make the service more fuel efficient.

In the wake of the Defense Department releasing its new climate change adaptation policy, the Navy is kicking off its year-long energy saving initiative.

Through 2016 the Navy will participate in the Great Green Fleet (GGF), where ships, aircraft, amphibious and expeditionary forces will use energy efficient systems, procedures and alternative fuel for their missions.

“The Department of Defense is one of the largest users of fossil fuels on earth, and the Navy is a little more than a third of that usage. So when I took this job seven years ago I made energy a priority not because of how much we buy and its impact on our budget,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Jan. 20 in San Diego, California. “I made it a priority because of how much it impacts our combat capabilities and the costs that our fuel use was imposing on our sailors and Marines. In fact, according to one study we were losing a Marine for every 50 fuel convoys in Afghanistan — far too high a price to pay.”

The main event of the GGF is a carrier strike group, which uses alternative fuels such as nuclear power and a blend of advanced biofuel made from beef fat and gas.

Mabus noted that the fuel blend works just as well as regular petroleum and cost DoD $2.05 per gallon. The Agriculture Department chipped in 14 cents per gallon to support “the American farmers in the Midwest who supplied the waste beef fats.”

GGF is an initiative to push the Navy toward its energy saving goals. Those goals include using alternative energy sources for 50 percent of the Navy’s energy consumption, reducing non-tactical petroleum use and evaluating energy factors when awarding contracts for systems and buildings.

“Factoring energy use into our planning and execution gives us a combat advantage, enabling us to gain the most effect from every gallon of fuel or watt of electricity. Tapping into alternative fuel supplies gives us a strategic advantage, expanding our options to fuel the fleet. Improving energy efficiency gives us a force protection advantage, taking convoys off the road and reducing the time our ships are tied to oilers at sea,” Mabus said.

GGF also is planning to conserve energy onshore as well. Mabus said the Navy is in the middle of buying as much as 1.1 gigawatts of renewable energy.

“Just two weeks ago, we put out the largest request for electric vehicles that any federal department has ever issued, to acquire more than 400 electric vehicles for our bases in California. This was a product of a partnership with the state of California and it keeps us headed toward our goal of reducing petroleum use in the non-tactical fleet by 50 percent,” Mabus said.

The christening of the GGF comes about a week after DoD released a new climate change adaptation policy.

The Jan. 14 memo integrates climate change considerations into all aspects of the department.

The Pentagon requires DoD components to assess the effects of climate change on the department’s mission and to take into account those effects when developing plans and implementing them.

Climate change now will be a constant consideration in how DoD goes about its war mission, acquisition programs, readiness plans, construction projects and security judgements.

“The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military,” the directive stated.

The directive, in some way, affects every aspect of DoD,  from tasking the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with assessing security risks posed by climate change, to asking special operations to direct planning for disaster relief in the case of climate change impacts and instability sparked by a lack of natural resources.

Not everyone is convinced that DoD’s new policy is a positive step, however.

“The Department of Defense’s strategy should be guided by what is making it the most capable military of defending U.S. interests and so I’m concerned that this [policy] is just, at best, going to cloud DoD’s judgment in that regard and act as a distraction” said Brian Slattery a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in an interview with Federal News Radio. “It’s kind of like putting climate change on top of the things the Department of Defense is already doing. If anything it will just be further emphasis on considerations that … planners in the military are already taking into consideration.”

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