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Navy plans massive cuts in fossil fuel use

Oct 22, 2009 - Steve Liewer - Signonsandiego.com


Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
In a speech yesterday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sketched out plans for the Navy to use renewable energy sources for 50 percent of its energy use by 2020. - The San Deigo Union-Tribune

The Navy intends to make massive cuts in its 100,000-barrel-a-day consumption of fossil fuels in the next several years, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said yesterday near the end of a three-day visit to San Diego.

Speaking before a breakfast crowd of 400 members of the San Diego Military Advisory Council, Mabus sketched out plans for the Navy to use renewable energy sources for 50 percent of its energy use by 2020.

“We're going to cut our fuel use in half,” Mabus said. “If the Navy has a demand for it, the technology will come.”

Mabus cited the China Lake Naval Weapons Station in Central California, which already produces 20 times as much energy as it consumes because of a geothermal plant that has been constructed there.

aircraft carrier

Photo by Howard Lipin

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus watched as the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan sailed toward North Island Naval Air Station yesterday after completing a five-month deployment.

Naval aviation devours enormous quantities of fuel, but Mabus said the Navy is developing a plan to create biofuels from algae, which is plentiful in the ocean and easy to produce. Recently the Navy tested an engine for the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet (dubbed the “Green Hornet”) powered by biofuels. That plane will join a carrier air wing within three years, he said, and will be deployed on a wider scale by 2016.

Other goals include:

•Deploying a “green strike group” of nuclear vessels by 2016.

•Cutting in half the fuel consumption of the Navy's fleet of 50,000 cars and trucks by 2020 by using hybrid fuel and electric vehicles.

•Powering half of Navy and Marine Corps bases with renewable energy sources by 2020.

Mabus said energy-efficient defense contractors will gain an advantage over their not-so-green counterparts.

“We can do these things. We have to,” he said. “We need to for strategic reasons . . . and because we need to be better stewards of the Earth.”

This month at the governor's Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, Rear Adm. William French said federal stimulus funds have helped San Diego-based Navy Region Southwest to install enough solar panels to generate 1.7 megawatts of power. He said it will add an additional 5 megawatts by next year, enough to power about 2,300 homes.

The command also is building wind turbines at San Clemente and San Nicolas islands off the Southern California coast, French announced.

Mabus praised the local shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO for delivering the new Lewis-and-Clark class cargo supply ships it is building for the Navy ahead of schedule and under budget and warned other contractors that they must control costs. He said that is a major reason the Navy fleet has dropped to 285 ships, below the Pentagon's goal of a 313-ship fleet.

“If we keep designing ever more exotic, ever more expensive ships, we're going to unilaterally disarm,” he said.


Steve Liewer: (619) 542-4572;


Updated: 2003/07/28