By Paul Driessen
If America had a "Spend Like a Drunken Sailor Award," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus would win hands-down, for blowing $12 million on biofuel for Navy ships.
Even as the armed services face drastic budget cuts under "automatic sequestration" and other proposed reductions, further undermining our national security, Mabus and President Obama clearly believe "it's only taxpayer money."
"Beat GSA" may have to replace Navy's "Beat Army" football battle cry.
In fairness, Secretary Mabus's "Great Green Fleet" of ships and fighter jets performed well during recent military exercises off Hawaii, burning blends of 50% biofuels and 50% conventional fuels. But the price tag makes the fleet a poster child for wasteful government spending.
The exercises cost the Navy nearly $27 per gallon for 450,000 gallons of biofuels produced from algae and waste grease and animal fat – versus around $3.50 a gallon for standard petroleum fuels.
The only way the Navy fiasco looks good is by comparison to the Air Force spending $59 a gallon for alcohol-to-jet fuel and $67 per gallon for camelina-based F-22 Raptor fuel – or the Navy's 2009 purchase of 20,000 gallons of renewable diesel for $424 per gallon!
If Mabus achieves his "goal" and "persuades" the Navy to make half of its fuel "green" by 2020, the higher cost biofuels could add $1.9 billion annually to Navy's fuel bill, according to a Defense Department study. That extra outlay would pay for a new DDG-51 destroyer and comes as the Defense Department budget faces $13 billion in cuts for Navy shipbuilding over the next four years.
Add to that boatloads of additional taxpayer dollars that would be wasted if the Army, Air Force and Marines also switch from abundant, affordable, reliable, proven petroleum fuels to untested, impractical, unaffordable, unsustainable biofuels. The Pentagon's green spending spree makes the General Services Administration binge on lavish conferences and entertainment look like chump change.
Worse, on top of paying these enormous sums for biofuels, the Navy and Departments of Agriculture and Energy agreed that each would "invest $170 million directly in biorefineries to kick-start the flagging industry," Wired magazine reported. The $510 million total nearly equals the Solyndra debacle.
What's next in the drive to end Defense Department fossil fuel use? Using fuel efficiency to justify "slimming down" armor and armament for personnel vehicles, tanks, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and missile cruisers – making them more vulnerable to enemy fire? Or shrinking the US military to the size and capability of its French, German or Greek counterparts?
Granted, the Navy biofuels program doesn't turn 40% of the US corn crop into ethanol – sending corn prices to record highs during this year's prolonged drought. However, our nation does not have enough chicken fat and waste grease to fuel the Navy; collecting and refining this refuse would be a budget-busting logistical nightmare; and camelina and other non-food crops still require vast amounts of land, water, fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuel energy.
Growing sufficient quantities of algae to meet the Mabus-Obama green fuel pipedreams would require enormous onshore and offshore algae ponds. That would likely send environmentalists storming into courthouses.
Protecting the military from oil price spikes is an equally specious justification. If every $1 in higher oil prices costs the DOD $30 million, as White House climate czarina Heather Zichal claims, a $23 to $63 per gallon price differential between conventional and bio fuel will cost $690 million to $1.9 billion.
As to enhancing supply lines and thus national security, does Secretary Mabus intend to build enough biofuel refineries to equal the conventional refineries and fleet servicing ports worldwide that supposedly do not safeguard supplies? Or perhaps he is planning to commission specialized ships that strain algae from seawater like baleen whales, convert it to fuel onboard, and store it in tankers marked with green crosses that would protect them from enemy fire, as red crosses presumably safeguard hospital ships.
Even ignoring the absence of empirical evidence for catastrophic CO2-driven global warming, it beggars belief that the White House, Congress or DOD would even consider subjugating military preparedness, missions and safety to manmade climate change ideology. Moreover, any net carbon dioxide reductions via DOD biofuels would be more than offset by increases from China, India and other rapidly developing countries.
Fortunately, many in Congress understand that "adopting a 'green agenda' for national defense is a terrible misplacement of priorities," as Arizona Senator and former Navy pilot John McCain aptly put it. House-passed legislation would bar the Defense Department from buying biofuels that cost more than conventional fuels, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has proposed similar action in the Senate.
Inhofe's amendment to the FY-2013 National Defense Authorization Act was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, the amendment faces mostly Democrat opposition in the full chamber, and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved continued biofuels funding.
Even stranger, the Senate Finance committed just passed a tax extenders package that includes a retroactive reauthorization – even though the EPA still has not adequately addressed the rampant fraud in the biodiesel RIN (renewable identification number) market.
The usual alliance of hydrocarbon adversaries is just as vehemently opposed to bills to address national security, oil prices and over-reliance on foreign sources in a far more commonsense manner: by producing more of America's abundant but untapped and off-limits petroleum resources. They oppose hydraulic fracturing for the centuries' of oil and gas our nation has in its extensive shale deposits – as well as drilling for conventional deposits off our Pacific, Atlantic, Alaskan and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or anywhere in the Western US states.
Rather than ensuring that our armed forces can defend America without wasting billions, President Obama and his alliance prefer to wage war on fossil fuels.
Instead of promoting biofuels, the Navy and Defense Department should be calling on Congress and the White House to increase domestic leasing and drilling in all these areas.
Even a drunken sailor would understand this.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author or Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.