American Elephants

The Navy Commitment to a Green Fleet Continues by The Elephant's Child


President Obama has nominated a renewable energy advocate as the new energy chief, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Installations and Environment. Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn (Ret) comes from the American Council on Renewable Energy, where he was president and chief executive.

The selection signals a continued commitment to green energy within the armed forces. The theory is that the Navy will get half its energy from nontraditional sources by 2020. The White House has promoted the Navy’s transition to biofuels to power the fleet. I guess to ensure your promotion, you have to embrace biofuels, because economically they make no sense at all.

Last year, the Navy embarked on a costly and pointless exercise — using “advanced” biofuels that cost $26 per gallon in some naval exercises. Secretary Ray Mabus claimed that it was important to spend millions on an exotic biofuel to “enhance our national security.” The exercises in the Pacific ran a fleet of warships, including the accompanying jets and helicopters, on a 50-50 mixture of conventional fuel and biofuel.

The biofuels in this case came from Dynamic Fuels LLC and Solazyme, Inc, and were made from chicken fat and algae oil respectively. The Navy claims that this protects national security by reducing our dependence on the volatile global oil market. If oil prices were around $1,000 a barrel, that might make sense, but they are hovering around $100 a barrel, whereas $26 a gallon multiplied by 42 (42 gallons in a barrel) = $1,092 a barrel of biofuel.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates the production of 100 million gallons of cellulosic fuel in 2010, 250 million gallons in 2011, 865 million gallons in 2012 and 1 billion gallons in 2013. NONE was produced in 2011, and only 20,069 gallons through October of 2012. The EPA just issues mandates, but it doesn’t matter if there isn’t any fuel produced, they’ll mandate a higher amount next year, and maybe sometime the production will catch up. I don’t pretend to understand this for it makes no sense to me at all.

Biofuel is old technology. Some of the first automobiles made in the 1800s ran on ethanol and other biofuels. During World War I, a cellulosic plant was operating, but biofuel declined because it was inefficient, expensive and unsustainable. But Obama has a fascination with old technologies. Doesn’t get much older than windmills, that have been slowly grinding or pumping for centuries — inefficiently.  We may use these sources of energy in modern high technology ways, but the nature of the sources has not changed, and they are still inefficient pipe-dreams.

A federal biofuel advisory committee that serves multiple government agencies in the development of biofuels is composed of individuals that work in the industry, including the President and Vice President of Solazyme, an interesting example of cronyism.

Both the House and the Senate have produced bills restricting the purchase of alternative fuels if they cost more than conventional oil.

The Navy spent $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel for the demonstration. That same $12 million would have purchased three million gallons of commercial fuel. Go figure.

Where Are The Jobs? Sitting On a Bureaucrat’s Desk. by The Elephant's Child

The main concern of the American people, in spite all efforts to get them concerned about other things, remains the economy and jobs. It seems that the administration has given up on job creation, expecting the economy to recover without its help. Our energy sector is booming, the portion of the sector that operates on private lands. The Department of Energy reported on its website last week:

While the overall energy history of the United States is one of significant change as new forms of energy were developed, the three major fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal, which together provided 87% of total U.S. primary energy over the past decade—have dominated the U.S. fuel mix for well over 100 years. Recent increases in the domestic production of petroleum liquids and natural gas have prompted shifts between the uses of fossil fuels (largely from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power generation), but the predominance of these three energy sources is likely to continue into the future. (emphasis added)

President Obama has consistently promoted renewable energy sources, and said during the 2012 campaign that “We’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.” By ‘investments’ he clearly means massive taxpayer subsidies for wind, solar and biofuel. He speaks dismissively of fossil fuels as “the energy of the past, ” an unfortunate designation.

Allowing increased natural gas exports would be a real boost for the American economy as it would expand American market opportunities. According to a new study from the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) expanded natural gas exports would:

  • increase employment by between 73,100 and 452,300 jobs;
  • increase manufacturing job growth by between 7,800 and 76,800 jobs;
  • Grow American GDP by $15.6 billion to $73.6 billion per year on average.

The advent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has not only opened up huge deposits of natural gas, but the country now has the potential to become a net exporter of natural gas. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said there would be decisions this year about the exports.

The Greens strenuously oppose increased exports, claiming the long-term environmental impacts are unclear,  but fears that the exports would raise domestic energy prices seem overrated. We need jobs, and increasing exports of natural gas provides overwhelmingly positive net economic benefits and much-needed jobs.

It is not clear why the DOE is involved in the export-permitting process. Natural gas should be treated as any other good, and Congress should remove that requirement and lift restrictions on recipient countries.

And of course the Keystone XL pipeline hangs in the balance. Obama’s Big Green supporters oppose it largely because they oppose any and all fossil fuels, believing against all evidence that ‘clean green renewable fuels’ can suffice. Obama’s Big Union supporters badly want the jobs that the Keystone XL promises — some 20,000 directly on the pipeline, and vast numbers of ‘spin-off’ jobs. The dreadful accident in Canada with a runaway oil train should have informed thinking environmentalists that transporting oil by train is considerably less safe than a pipeline.


Please note that the renewable percentages include hydropower with the wind and solar and biofuel.

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