With the issue of climate change only becoming more prevalent, it is of the utmost significance that we reduce our fossil fuel reliance and begin looking for alternative fuel sources in earnest; and we appear to be doing so, to an extent anyway. In fact, the United States Navy, a known petroleum guzzler, is actually beginning to switch to green energy. One might even say it is becoming a model example for how countries can drastically reduce their fossil fuel consumption.
Initially, the concept of a “Great Green Fleet” was met with much resistance when it was first posed by Secretary Ray Mabus. His goal to replace 50% of all power consumed by the Navy with green energy by 2020 was perceived as an unrealistic goal, instead being replaced with a 30% number by skeptical administrators. However, now, the Navy has already surpassed 50% of energy for fuel ashore, and it’s only 2016.
In light of such, the Navy, and Mabus as well, fully expect to meet their goal well before 2020. According to Mabus, this shift in energy source goes beyond environmental responsibility. In fact, Mabus claims that in Afghanistan, the marines had one marine killed or wounded for every fifty convoys of fuel. Thus, when we save more energy, we save more marines. Thankfully, this trend of saving does seem to be going anywhere either.
Whereas when the Navy was purchasing biofuel just four years ago, it was an immense $25/gallon. Today? It’s less than $2/gallon. Not mention, the Navy is also creating innovative “hybrid” ships like the USS Makin Island and the USS America. By using electric propulsion for lower speeds and only gas for higher speeds (kind of like a Toyota Prius in that sense), these assault ships have been able to remain at sea full forty-four days longer than expected without refueling. In fact, Mabus has jokingly referred to them as the “Prius of the Seas.” Over the course of one of these ship’s lifetime, they could potentially be responsible for up to $250 million in savings.
With these incredible savings, an increase in environmental responsibility, and overall benefit to not only the Navy but America itself, the military is continuing to look to implement other green initiatives. What’s next? Long lasting LED lights. Actually, 7 percent of the fleet so far has made this shift, which will save the Navy about 1 million gallons of marine diesel fuel annually. Just as well, currently deployed marines have been using solar panels when possible in order to produce power that would generally come from generators or batteries. For an entire company, this solar panel usage could spare troops from bringing 700 extra pounds of batteries into combat.
So not only does making the shift to environmentally friendly technology save our planet, it also saves us a tremendous amount of money and even keeps our troops agile and less vulnerable to attack (than they would be, say, if they were carrying an extra 700 lbs into combat). While generally the military is perceived as a traditional institution slow to change, the Navy is proving that wrong. Its green energy initiatives are already changing the world, and I only expect them to continue to do so.