Vilsack, Navy secretary launch fleet with renewable fuels |

Vilsack, Navy secretary launch fleet with renewable fuels

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in Coronado, Calif., on Wednesday to deploy the first ship using alternative fuels as part of regular operations.

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack makes remarks at the deployment of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., on Wednesday. (USDA)

Vilsack flew to California for the event following a speech at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Iowa, at which he highlighted the launch as an example of the Obama administration’s commitment to renewable fuels.

The launch is part of what the Navy is calling the “Great Green Fleet,” an initiative highlighting energy efficiency and alternative energy to increase combat capability and operational flexibility.

At the close of the ceremony, the guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale left the pier to begin its deployment, using an “advanced fuel blend [that] was produced by California-based AltAir Fuels from a feedstock of beef tallow — waste beef fat — provided by Midwest farmers and ranchers, and traditional petroleum provided by Tesoro,” USDA said in a news release.

In Iowa, Vilsack noted that Mabus has come under fire from members of the Armed Services committees, who are less likely than members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees to come from states that produce renewable fuels.

But in a news release, Mabus said, “When it comes to power, my focus has been about one thing and one thing only: better warfighting. The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer, and deliver more firepower. In short, to enable us to provide the global presence that is our mission.”

The fuel was purchased at a cost-competitive price through a partnership between the Navy and USDA aimed at making alternative fuel blends a regular part of the military’s bulk operational fuel supply, USDA said in the release.

Pursuant to Navy requirements, the alternative fuel is drop-in, meaning it requires no changes to ship engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures. The Defense Logistics Agency awarded a contract to AltAir Fuels for 77.6 million gallons of the alternative fuel blend, at a cost to DLA of $2.05 per gallon, making it cost competitive with traditional fuel.

Through the Commodity Credit Corporation, USDA is able to partner with the Navy to help diversify its fuel supply and simultaneously support America’s own farmers, ranchers and rural economies, USDA noted.

With the USS John C. Stennis and Stockdale in the background, Mabus and Vilsack explained why this milestone alternative fuel purchase is important to the Navy and Marine Corps, and how it supports America’s farmers, ranchers and rural manufacturing jobs.

“Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us,” Mabus said.

“The Navy’s use of renewable energy in the Great Green Fleet represents its ability to diversify its energy sources, and also our nation’s ability to take what would be a waste product and create homegrown, clean, advanced biofuels to support a variety of transportation needs,” said Vilsack.

“Today’s deployment proves that America is on its way to a secure, clean energy future, where both defense and commercial transportation can be fueled by our own hardworking farmers and ranchers, reduce landfill waste, and bring manufacturing jobs back to rural America.”

Mabus and Vilsack flew out to the destroyer USS William P. Lawrence to witness it replenishing its tanks with alternative fuel from fleet replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe. The remainder of the CSG’s surface ships will receive fuel from fast combat support ship USNS Rainier, which will take on over 3 million gallons of the alternative fuel blend in Washington state before joining the CSG on deployment.

Sailing the Great Green Fleet in 2016 was one of the five energy goals Mabus set in 2009 for the Navy and Marine Corps. It was named to honor President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, which helped usher in America as a global power on the world stage at the beginning of the 20th century, the Navy said.

–The Hagstrom Report

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