The U.S. Department of Defense is the biggest user of fossil fuels in the world, and the Navy uses about one third of it. But with heavy consumption comes heavy influence.
Unlike many corporate executives hung up on the short-term costs of low-carbon energy, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has committed to obtaining at least 50 percent of energy for the Navy and Marine Corps from alternative sources by 2020.
“It’s going to be very competitive with fossil fuels,” Mabus said. “In fact, we’re not going to do it unless it is competitive with fossil fuels.”
While the main objective for incorporating alternative sources is to fulfill its military mission, Mabus was proud to be a frontrunner in the move toward a clean-energy economy.
“What we do is, we bring a market,” Mabus said.
Oil is the ultimate global commodity, and the shrinking military budget makes alternative sources of energy imperative today, he said.
“Now is exactly the time that we have to do this,” Mabus said. “A tightening budget situation makes it even more urgent, even more critical that we do this.”
Mabus spoke about how the Navy historically switched from sail to coal, coal to oil, and pioneered nuclear, and “every single time, there were naysayers.”
“It’s one of our core competencies: Changing energy,” he said.
People who join the Navy or Marine Corps have this willingness to change, and it’s part of the spirit of innovation, Mabus said. When asked about what other countries’ navies around the world are doing in terms of alternative energy, Mabus said they are all watching the U.S. very closely to see how we do.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the largest spenders on alternative energy in the world,” Mabus said. “That ought to tell you something.”
Aside from the economic implications of alternative fuels, many American lives are lost in fuel or water convoys overseas. “We’re talking about saving Marine lives, doing this,” Mabus said.
He spoke about other technological innovations, such as a solar blanket given to Marines that produces energy where they use it, which can save lives – when you turn off a generator, all of sudden you can hear when somebody’s sneaking up on you. The Navy also has a patent to create fuel by combining organic matter and seawater, he said.