On 24 July 2012, the Pew Project on National
Security, Energy, and Climate released a letter signed by some 400 veterans, including retired
generals and admirals, as well as former Armed Services Committee chairmen Sen.
John Warner and Rep. Ike Skelton, urging the president and Congress to support
the Pentagon’s initiatives to deploy clean energy technology to reduce
dependence on fossil fuels.
Although many parts of the letter are flawed (on oil)
it doesn’t say anything against the worries expressed by the Congress as was
argued in many papers. (For instance, an article in The Guardian argues that the letter urges “Congress
to drop plans to bar the navy from research on biofuels, or from buying fuels which cost more than
traditional diesel or jet fuel.” Similarly a Reuters article says U.S. biofuel advocates urge Congress to continue Pentagon funding.
This is not true. I really wonder whether the reporters really read the
Yes, the Congress voiced concern about the price of
biofuels not being competitive with conventional petroleum. As a result, Senate
and House amendments to the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act
seeks to limit the DOD’s authority to purchase biofuels in large quantities for
operational use until they become cost competitive with conventional oil. SO,
it is not against R&D. This issue is still confused in media.
On the same day (24 July), Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a
letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus requesting a detailed report on the
cost of the U.S. Navy’s “Green Fleet” demonstration and overall alternative
energy program. On 2 August 2012 he sent a second letter to Sec. Mabus because Mabus’ answer to Inhofe was not satisfying.
Why? Because, Mabus always repeats himself. Check all
his speeches you will understand what I mean. See for instance, Remarks by Ray
Mabus Secretary of the Navy at the Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and
Security: Making the Connections Boston, Mass. (22 May 2012).
Mabus (again) argues that “how we power our ships, our
aircraft, our ground vehicles is a military vulnerability” but fails to
underline the fact that powering the war machines by biofuels will not make
them less vulnerable. On the contrary, lower energy density of biofuels will
require frequent refueling which means higher vulnerability.
It is good to see that Mabus finally understood that
“oil is a global commodity. It is traded very often on rumor and speculation.»
But he still fails to understand that the price of biofuels will not be
competitive with conventional petroleum in the foreseeable future. He says: “In just the test amounts of
biofuels we’ve bought, we’ve seen the price come down dramatically.” True, per
gallon price declined in the past few years but still per gallon price of the
last procurement was still 10 times more than conventional fuel.
According to a RAND Corporation report in June 2012, energy purchases made by the U.S. Department of
Defense do not influence world oil prices, making cutting fuel use the only
effective choice to reduce what the Pentagon spends on petroleum fuels. The
report adds that biofuels are likely to remain far more expensive than
conventional petroleum products absent a technological breakthrough. God knows
if and when this technological breakthrough will take place. Until then the US
military should better focus its attention on conservation and efficient use of
Many people ask why the Congress pushes poor Secretary
Mabus to the corner for advocating biofuels? Eric Beidel sums it well in his article appeared in National Defense Magazine: “Military leaders like to say that their aircraft,
ships and personnel can’t tell the difference between petroleum and biofuel.
But their budgets can.”
People criticize the Navy’s efforts not because it is
buying biofuels that cost more but because paying much more for something that
brings insignificant advantages is nonsense.
Mabus argues that [most of the time to promote
biofuels] “We’re doing it all for one underlying reason. We’re doing it to be a
better military. We’re doing it to be better war fighters. » I really
don’t get it. Does using biofuels make ships and aircraft go faster and
farther? Does it require less transport logistic? Does it save any lives? The
answers to all those questions are: NO!
Oh yes, sometimes biofuels advocated also argue that
biofuels create jobs. Well, I can show many reports claiming otherwise. For
instance, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, in a
June 2012 report states that “The European nations that once were ahead of the U.S. in
adopting green jobs programs are now ahead of the U.S. in abandoning them. It
is time for America to do the same.
On 17 July 2012 the Wired article entitled How the Navy’s
Incompetence Sank the ‘Green Fleet’
ends with the following sentence: “the first voyage of the Great Green Fleet
may well be the last”. He may be right. More importantly, toxic biofuels may
cost Mabus his job. It is time for Congress to demand an audit for DOD’s
biofuels activities with full cost details.
As Senator McCain rightly argues investment in
biofuels represents a case of “misplaced priorities” for the DOD simply because
it is not a core defense activity. Instead of biofuels the DOD could spend that
money on more pressing issues, such as creating jobs and providing housing for
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment for those
veterans who served post-September 2001 was 12 percent in 2011, higher than
general unemployment. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans points out
that “over 67,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.
You decide what is the most important. Spending
tax-payer money for a possible creation of a biofuels industry in the very long
run OR honoring and taking care of those who served their country today?