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US Navy to halve fossil fuels by 2020

Feb 2, 2010 - Carbon Positive

The US Navy is to halve its use of fossil fuels by 2020 among a number of clean energy measures across the armed forces flagged in a major defence review paper released this week. On the way to the 2020 target, the Navy plans to deploy a “green” strike group by 2016 which will operate entirely without fossil fuels. It has already commissioned an electric-drive aircraft carrier, the USS Makin Island, and last year tested an F/A-18 fighter aircraft on a camelina-based biofuel blend.

The Quadrennial Defense Review lays out an extensive list of priorities that for the first time identifies the threats climate change and conventional energy pose for national security and the operational effectiveness of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. An ambitious set of goals will see the US Department of Defense heavily involved in research and development of green fuel alternatives and energy efficiency.

The review says that “climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions” the military will have to undertake, and may act as an accelerant of instability, conflict and natural disaster around the world to which it will have to respond. It acknowledges energy security as well as environmental adaptation and emissions mitigation as primary motivations for the switch to cleaner fuels and practices.

“What it means is moving the American Navy both afloat and ashore off fossil fuels to the maximum extent possible,” the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, told Radio Australia last week at an international conference on naval security and hardware in Sydney. “We've got a goal in 10 years of half our energy coming from non-fossil fuel sources … alternative energy of various kinds,” Mabus said.

This will require substituting huge volumes of ship diesel and aviation fuel with biofuels as well as power from wind, solar and nuclear sources. Already 17 per cent of defence force energy needs comes from non-fossil fuels – but mainly nuclear.

Also by 2016, the Air Force will aim to “cost-competitively acquire 50 per cent of its domestic aviation fuel via an alternative fuel blend that is greener than conventional petroleum fuel”, the review states. The Army is in the midst of a significant transformation of its fleet, the report says, “including the current deployment of more than 500 hybrids and the acquisition of 4,000 low-speed electric vehicles at domestic installations to help cut fossil fuel usage”.


Updated: 2003/07/28