While the EPA has been putting limits on renewable fuel for passenger vehicles, the US Navy is moving full steam ahead to use renewable fuel in their ships and planes. The program is called Farm-to-Fleet and is a cooperative effort between the USDA and the Department of the Navy to incorporate more domestically produced renewable fuel into the Navy’s fuel supply. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus says it is a matter of national security and financial security. “A secure, domestically-produced energy source is very important to our national security,” said Mabus. “Energy is how our naval forces are able to provide presence around the world. Energy is what gets them there and keeps them there. The Farm-to-Fleet initiative we are announcing today is important to advancing a commercial market for advanced biofuel, which will give us an alternative fuel source and help lessen our dependence on foreign oil.” He added price spikes in oil pose a real problem for the military and biofuels will help mitigate those price spikes, “Each time the price of oil goes up a dollar it costs us $30 million.”
Mabus says that, starting in 2015, the Navy will integrate biofuels into their regular fuel program for both aircraft and ships, “The Navy will seek to purchase JP-5 and F-76 advanced drop-in biofuels blended from 10 to 50 percent with conventional fuels.” Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time alternative fuels such as advanced drop-in biofuels will be available for purchase through regular procurement practices. It lowers barriers for alternative domestic fuel suppliers to do business with DOD. Preliminary indications from the Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project are that drop-in biofuels will be available for less than $4 per gallon by 2016, making them competitive with traditional sources of fuel.
Sec of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says this may help pave the way for more commercial acceptance of biofuels in marine and aviation fuels. “The Navy’s intensifying efforts to use advanced, homegrown fuels to power our military benefits both America’s national security and our rural communities,” said Vilsack. “Not only will production of these fuels create jobs in rural America, they’re cost effective for our military, which is the biggest consumer of petroleum in the nation. America’s Navy shouldn’t have to depend on oil supplies from foreign nations to ensure our national defense, and rural America stands ready to provide clean, homegrown energy that increases our military’s energy independence and puts Americans to work.” He added this program operates outside the RFS so EPA limitations will not impact the adoption of biofuels by the military, “This program will move forward no matter what the EPA does or does not do.” He indicated this is the kind of effort the USDA can foster that does not depend on EPA approval.
Farm groups, who just a few weeks ago were criticizing the White House for turning their back on renewable fuels, are now praising this program. NFU president Roger Johnson issued the following statement after the Farm-to-Fleet announcement, “While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently took a step backwards in this area by reducing the 2014 targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, we are very pleased that USDA and the Navy are taking a more forward-looking approach tor the future of energy in our country. NFU is especially appreciative of Secretary Vilsack’s extraordinary leadership on renewable energy issues.”