Navy Secretary Mabus unabashed about ‘choosing winners’ in fuel market

Coming on the heels of Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s reintroduction of the Energy Security Act, which would boost efforts to power the military with alternative energy, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus reiterated his commitment to making the military green. In a recent interview with Platts Energy Week, he said that the planes and boats and trucks used to defend the nation are already built and are thirsty to the tune of tens of billions of dollars every year. He said the military needs fuel that works in those engines and is pushing hard to unabashedly “choose winners,” as the political turn of phrase puts it, in the domestic fuel business.

“We use a lot of fuel and we can help get some of these smaller companies and some of these new technologies over the hurdle from being just a good idea to being commercially viable,” Mabus said. “We’re meeting with venture capitalists, with finance organizations, saying here’s the market we’ve got, here are the types of fuels we need. Bring us the companies that can do it.”

He said that, although the military is investing in alternative energy technologies across the board, biofuel is key.

“A requirement is that whatever fuel we use has got to be a drop-in fuel. We’ve got the fleet we’re gonna have in 2020, so we can’t go around changing engines. [The engines] have got to not know the difference when the fuel comes in and I think that’s what you’re going to see.”

Mabus said the Navy was leading a new energy revolution, as it has several times in the past when it shifted from wind to coal to oil to nuclear power. He said the reasons for this latest revolution were obvious.

“We’re moving away from fossil fuels toward sustainable types of fuels that are made in the U.S. That’s to make us better war fighters. There are other benefits but that’s the main reason,” he said. “We should all be under pressure to cut energy costs. The bill for the Navy and Marines has gone up a billion and a half dollars this year for fuel because of the rise in the cost of a barrel of oil.

“We shouldn’t be dependent on [volatile governments] to power our warships, our planes, our ground vehicles.”

Despite Republican “drill baby drill” jeering and complaints that the Obama administration has hobbled domestic oil production by increasing regulations and blocking offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil-gushing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. oil production has risen in the past three years and is now at the highest level since 2003, hitting an average of 5.4 million barrels a day.

Still, that’s nothing close to the amount of oil Americans consume each day, and the price of oil is subject to a wide variety of shocks, and those shocks cause economic ripples like tidal waves.

Every dollar increase in the price of oil costs the military $31 million. That kind of major random resource drag is exactly not what military leaders like Mabus find acceptable. It’s a problem men like Mabus won’t let the politics of global warming or free market talking points or even the oil lobby stop them from solving.

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