As part of the government’s push to wean the United States off of foreign oil, the US Department of Defense in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture just announced the largest single government purchase of biofuels in history. The 450,000 gallons of biofuel to be purchased are coming from non-food sources and will fuel aircraft and ships during an annual training exercise off the coast of Hawaii next summer. The group of ships using the 50/50 biofuel and petroleum blend will be called the Green Strike Group demonstration.
“We are doing this for one simple reason, it makes us better war fighters. Our use of fossil fuels is a very real threat to national security and the United States Navy’s ability to protect America and project our power overseas,” said U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus during his announcement. During the announcement, Secretary Mabus was joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and both placed major emphasis on the idea that this measure is being taken to heighten national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil by generating a marketplace for U.S. created fuel. Secretary Vilsack also underscored, a number of times, the fact that starting to invest in U.S.-created biofuels will create jobs on American soil and could be a huge boom for the economy. Though this first outing of biofuel-run Navy aircraft and ships is just a research and development exercise, both Mabus and Vilsack believe that this is just the beginning of a full-fledged campaign to institute biofuels into active military missions.
“In March, the President challenged me, Secretary Mabus, and Secretary Steven Chu to work with the private sector to cultivate a competitively-priced — and domestically produced — drop-in biofuel industry that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners,” said Secretary Vilsack, “Today’s announcement continues our efforts to meet that challenge. This is not work we can afford to put off for another day.”
The biofuel being purchased will come partially from Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, LLC — which is a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corporation — which makes fuel from used cooking oil and partially from Solazyme who produces fuel from algae. The biofuel will be used as a part of a 50/50 blend and is considered a “drop-in” fuel — a fuel that can be used in existing infrastructure without major changes to gas tanks and filling stations. The cost of the biofuels as of now is high, about $15 per gallon for the 50/50 blend but Mabus noted that is down to half of the cost of the fuel as of last year. He believes that with stronger investments and the military’s continued support of the non-food source biofuel industry those prices will continue to decrease.