US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Energy for Navy Tom Hicks today toured the USS Monterey (CG 61) at the Naval Station Norfolk and highlighted the Obama Administration's commitment to energy independence for the Nation's military. During the tour, Secretary Vilsack discussed the tremendous opportunities advanced biofuels hold for reducing America's dependence on foreign oil while creating more jobs in rural communities.
"Developing the next generation of advanced biofuels for our nation's military is both a national security issue and an economic issue," said Vilsack. "By utilizing renewable energy produced on American soil, our military forces will become less reliant on fuel that has to be transported long distances and often over supply lines that can be disrupted during times of conflict. Meanwhile, a strong and diverse biofuels industry will support good-paying jobs in rural America that can't be shipped overseas. Through this joint effort, USDA and the U.S. Navy have the opportunity to create a model for American energy security while ensuring the safety of our troops and the long term viability of our armed forces."
"Secretary Vilsack's leadership and the work carried out by USDA on alternative fuel is so critical to the Navy's efforts to address a critical military vulnerability; our reliance on foreign oil," stated U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. "I am grateful that he took the time today to tour USS Monterey and meet some of our sailors. I am sure he came away as impressed with their professionalism and skill as I am always am."
Recently, the U.S. Navy powered the "Great Green Fleet," a Carrier Strike Group's aircraft and surface ships, on advanced biofuel to test the fuel's performance in an operational setting. The demonstration took place off the coast of Hawaii as part of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus observed operations, which included fueling helicopters and jets from the deck of a nuclear-powered carrier; completing arrested landings of aircraft onto a carrier, the first ever using biofuels; refueling a destroyer while underway; and air-to-air refueling.
In addition to operating on alternative fuels, including nuclear power, the Great Green Fleet showcased energy efficiency technology that increase combat capability by allowing Navy ships to achieve greater range and by reducing dependence on a vulnerable logistics supply chain. More information on the demonstration, including a list of participating ships, is available here.
In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future released in March 2011, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025 and laid out an all-of-the-above energy plan to achieve that goal by developing domestic oil and gas energy resources, increasing energy efficiency, and speeding development of biofuels and other alternatives. Domestic oil and gas production has increased each year the President has been in office as efforts continue to take to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil. As part of that effort, the Blueprint directed the Navy, USDA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to collaborate to support commercialization of "drop-in" biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel. Competitively-priced drop-in biofuels will help improve America's energy security, meeting the fuel needs of U.S. armed forces, as well as the commercial aviation and shipping sectors.
Navy, USDA and DOE recently announced $30 million in funding to support commercialization of "drop-in" biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel through the Defense Production Act Title III (DPA), an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to support the industrialization of defense-critical domestic industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics. At the same time, DOE announced an additional $32 million to support research into advanced biofuel technologies that are in earlier stages of development.
USDA is working to develop the national biofuels industry producing energy from non-food sources in every region of the country. Working with private and government partners, USDA is supporting research into innovative energy technologies and processes, helping companies build biorefineries - including the first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities - and supporting farmers, ranchers, and businesses taking risks to pursue new opportunities in biofuels.