The United States Navy is the single largest purchaser of diesel fuel in the world, and it is no wonder why; have you ever seen a Nimitz-class supercarrier in person? It’s friggin’ huge. So it is no wonder that the Navy wants to explore homegrown alternatives to the foreign oil that it uses right now. A recent $210 million biofuel purchase by the Navy to three U.S.-based refining operations has pissed off some members of the Republican party who still think we’re sitting on an unlimited and uninterrupted supply of oil.
A Little Cash Buys A Lot Of Green Gas
I probably don’t have to remind you that the United States has far and away the largest and most technologically advanced Navy in the history of the world. Some of these ships, like the aforementioned Nimitz-class supercarrier, are actually powered by mini nuke reactors. However, many support ships like Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are powered by gas or diesel turbines, not to mention that all of our tanks, HUMVEE’s, and even FOB’s (forward operating bases).
So, keeping in mind that the U.S. defense budget for the fiscal year 2013 will be about $614 BILLION, doesn’t it seem odd that GOP lawmakers would single out a $210 million purchase order for experimental fuels? No, not really; the GOP has consistently proved itself to be anti-science, out of touch, penny wise but pound foolish. The Navy initially purchased just 450,000 gallons of alternative jet fuels at a cost of $12 million; obviously the results were impressive enough that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus felt it was time to scale up production.
Yes, $27 a gallon for experimental biofuels is a lot of money; however, the Navy has already proven the effectiveness of these homegrown, sustainable fuels, mixing it with JP-8 (the standard military fuel), bringing the effective cost closer to $15 a gallon. A large order like this will allow the three selected refiners to scale up production, producing at least 10 million gallons of biofuel annually while seriously cutting down on costs.
The Future Of Fuel, Or GOP Folly?
GOP lawmakers have tried to reign in these biofuel purchases with provisions and bills that would limit the Department of Defense to only purchasing biofuels that cost the same as petroleum. Talk about shortsighted. The Pentagon has taken the lead in numerous projects like the Internet and GPS, which eventually filtered their way into regular consumers hands. But these projects required significant investment early on, and not every project pans out. Yet companies like OriginOil have already developed sustainable alternatives that could use our established refining infrastructure.
Yet I think there is no greater need in the coming decades than sustainable, domestically-produced fuel. Though it isn’t in the news as much these, war with Iran could double oil prices overnight and it is still a very real threat. And what if Iran isn’t alone? Venezuela is a close ally of Iran, as well as a huge exporter of oil to the U.S. and Mexico, another major supplier of oil to the U.S., is in many ways embroiled in a civil war against well-armed and well-organized drug gangs. It’s a scary thought, and in order to avoid that nightmare scenario, the U.S. government has an obligation to help develop useful alternatives, cost be damned.
If we can afford to pay $150 million for each F-22 Raptor, a plane that has been plagued by serious issues since its inception, then we can afford $210 million to help develop an alternative fuel that everybody one day might use.