On January 20th, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack officially launched the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet.” The ceremony was held at the North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado and featured the deployment of a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) of ships that can run on a blend containing up to 50% biofuel. For the time being, the majority of these ships will run on a blend of 10% biofuel and 90% petroleum. The biofuel is produced from waste beef fat as part of a partnership with the Navy and U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at making alternative fuel blends a regular part of the military’s bulk operational fuel supply.
The Defense Logistics Agency awarded a contract to AltAir Fuels for 77.6 million gallons of the alternative fuel blend powering the Great Green Fleet at a cost-competitive rate of $2.05 per gallon. This fuel meets Navy requirements as a “drop-in” fuel, meaning no changes to ship engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures will need to be made. In the official press release, Secretary Mabus stated “the Great Green Fleet shows us how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer, and deliver more firepower.”
The Great Green Fleet is an initiative to improve fuel efficiency and reduce the Navy’s dependence on foreign oil. It currently consumes nearly 1.3 billion gallons per year. In 2009, Secretary Mabus issued five goals to support the Navy’s energy strategy, which include increasing alternative energy use Navy-wide and ashore, sailing the Great Green Fleet, reducing non-tactical petroleum use, and mandatory energy evaluations when awarding contracts. The specific target years for these goals vary, with an aim of reducing 50% of petroleum use in the commercial fleet by 2015 and officially deploying the Great Green Fleet’s CSG ships by 2016. By 2020, 50% of total energy consumption Navy-wide will come from alternative sources, 50% of Navy and Marine Corps installations will be net-zero energy facilities, and the Department of Navy will fulfill at least 50% of shore-based energy requirements from alternative sources.