From a bemused Reuters:
Insight: “Green Fleet” sails, meets stiff headwinds in Congress
By David Alexander | July 2, 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy oiler slipped away from a fuel depot on the Puget Sound in Washington state one recent day, headed toward the central Pacific and into the storm over the Pentagon’s controversial green fuels initiative.
In its tanks, the USNS Henry J. Kaiser carried nearly 900,000 gallons of biofuel blended with petroleum to power the cruisers, destroyers and fighter jets of what the Navy has taken to calling the “Great Green Fleet,” the first carrier strike group to be powered largely by alternative fuels.
Conventionally powered ships and aircraft in the strike group will burn the blend in an operational setting for the first time this month during the 22-nation Rim of the Pacific exercise, the largest annual international maritime warfare maneuvers. The six-week exercise began on Friday.
The Pentagon hopes it can prove the Navy looks as impressive burning fuel squeezed from seeds, algae and chicken fat as it does using petroleum.
But the demonstration, years in the making, may be a Pyrrhic victory.
Some Republican lawmakers have seized on the fuel’s $26-a-gallon price, compared to $3.60 for conventional fuel. They paint the program as a waste of precious funds at a time when the U.S. government’s budget remains severely strained, the Pentagon is facing cuts and energy companies are finding big quantities of oil and gas in the United States.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the program’s biggest public booster, calls it vital for the military’s energy security.
But to President Barack Obama’s critics, it is an opportunity to accuse the U.S. leader of pushing green energy policies even if they don’t make economic sense. The bankruptcy of government-funded solar panel maker Solyndra last year was a previous example of that, they say.
How can any sane person say otherwise?
Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed outrage over the costs of the fuel at a hearing earlier this year.
“I don’t believe it’s the job of the Navy to be involved in building… new technologies,” he said. “I don’t believe we can afford it.”
But the U.S. Defense, Energy and Agriculture departments are moving ahead with their plans, jointly sponsoring a half-a-billion-dollar initiative to foster a competitive biofuels industry…
Which is so competitive now, it barely exists.
But the initial small-batch cost of some biofuels has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, even among lawmakers used to dealing with billion-dollar defense cost overruns.
The Pentagon paid Solazyme Inc $8.5 million in 2009 for 20,055 gallons of biofuel based on algae oil, or $424 a gallon.
Was that Stimulus money?
Solazyme’s strategic advisers, according to its website, include T.J. Glauthier, who served on Obama’s White House Transition team and dealt with energy issues, but also former CIA director R. James Woolsey, a conservative national security official.
Cherchez le Obama crony.
For the Great Green Fleet demonstration, the Pentagon paid $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, nearly $27 a gallon. There were eight bidders for that contract, it said.
Republican lawmakers are pushing measures that would bar the Navy from spending funds on alternative fuels that are not priced competitively with petroleum and are accusing Mabus of failing to provide Congress with a full analysis of the cost and time it would take to create.
How partisan of them.
Mabus remains undeterred in his pursuit of alternative fuel.
The Navy has been at the forefront of energy innovation for over a hundred years, Mabus says, transitioning from sail, to coal, to oil and then to nuclear from the 1850s to the 1950s.
“Every single time there were naysayers,” he said recently. “And every single time, every single time, those naysayers have been wrong, and they’re going to be wrong again this time.”
Yes, algae certainly makes more sense than something like oil shale or old-fashioned nuclear. The critics are so backward.
In any case, for most of the un-excerpted article Reuters defends this program. In fact, they spend most of the piece quoting Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who is the biggest proponent of using biofuels, apart from Obama.
But, naturally, the Left would like the military to squander as much of its budget as possible on things like biofuels, instead of what it should be using it for. And that is, defending the country.