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Navy's 'Great Green Fleet' Proves More Costly, Less Green

Image: Navy's 'Great Green Fleet' Proves More Costly, Less Green
(Photo by Armando Gonzales/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 07 Jul 2016 03:28 PM

The U.S. Navy, seeking to modernize and reduce its environmental impact, introduced what it calls the "Great Green Fleet" this year. But retired Navy Captain T. A. Kiefer told Ship & Bunker that the fleet is more costly to operate and worse for the environment than the Navy has proclaimed.

The Navy Times announced in January that the first biofuel-powered ships were being deployed in the Pacific, noting that they use a mix of 10 percent biofuel and 90 percent fuel oil. The Times reported that ship captains were given orders to "make every effort to have at least three energy conservation measures or operational procedures in place whenever operationally feasible."

"The Navy fleet has embraced this as a way to be a better warfighter," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told The Wall Street Journal last month. "You never want fuel to be a vulnerability. And it can be. It can be a weapon. All you have to do is look at what Russia did in Crimea, what Russia did in Ukraine."

According to the Navy, a new Italian-made biofuel used in the ships costs $2.26 per gallon, which would be a good price compared to the cost in 2012, at $26.75 for biofuel and $3.25 for fuel oil. In 2012 the Navy used a roughly 50/50 mixture of biofuel and petroleum, but currently uses a blend with only 5.5 percent biofuel. Critics dismiss it as a costly waste.

"A 5 percent blend should not even be called biofuel; it is petroleum fuel with an expensive additive," Capt. Kiefer told Ship & Bunker. "The failure of the biofuel price to become competitive even after more than a decade of mandates and subsidies is why the blending fractions are falling instead of rising. This is an inescapable consequence of the low EROI (or energy return on investment) of biofuel and its critical dependence upon fossil fuels."

The biofuel used is made from palm oil, which according to Kiefer is "recognized by the bulk of Europe and by informed environmentalists everywhere as the absolute worst biofuel, as it triples GHG (or greenhouse gas) emissions over fossil fuels." Harvesting palm oil also leads to environmental destruction by plantation operators, he said.

"The U.S. Navy is hurting the climate, and food security, and biodiversity, and international stability by ignoring the proven damaging consequences of biofuels and pretending, against all evidence, that they are clean and green and renewable," Kiefer said.

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The U.S. Navy, seeking to modernize and reduce its environmental impact, introduced what it calls the "Great Green Fleet" this year.
Navy, great green fleet, costly
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2016-28-07
Thursday, 07 Jul 2016 03:28 PM
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