The U.S. Navy has spent $26 a gallon for 900,000 gallons of biofuels mixed with petroleum for use in a training exercise, and Republicans in Washington aren't too happy about it.
The biofuel mix is being carried by the USNS Henry J. Kaiser, a replenishment oiler, to RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) 2012, the world's largest international maritime exercise, as part of the Navy's plans to green its fleet by the year 2016. The Kaiser's payload, which is a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuels and traditional petroleum-based fuels, is coming to the exercise in two forms: 700,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable diesel fuel (HRD76) and 200,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable aviation fuel (HRJ5). The biofuels are comprised of a combination of waste cooking oil and algae oil.
The Kaiser and its fuel will be used to "test, evaluate and demonstrate the cross-platform utility and functionality of advanced biofuels in an operational setting," according to a Navy press release. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says plans to develop what is called the Great Green Fleet are vital to establishing a secure source of energy for military operations.
A Navy spokesperson told Fox News that the 900,000 gallons represent a single day's worth of fuel at RIMPAC. He also said the price of biofuels would drop once purchases increase. "Investments in biofuel will produce a competitively priced — and domestically produced — alternative to conventional fuel. Such investments help the Navy and the nation become less dependent on foreign oil and thus less subject to volatility in oil prices that directly affect our readiness," the spokesperson said.
At a recent press conference, Mabus said the Navy has the purchasing power necessary to increase biofuel production and lower prices. "We use 2 percent of all the fossil fuels that the United States uses," he said. "And one of the things that this means is that we can bring the market [to us]. And to paraphrase the old 'Field of Dreams' line, if the Navy comes, they will build it."
But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) disagrees. "I don't believe it's the job of the Navy to be involved in building ... new technologies," he told Reuters. "I don't believe we can afford it." According to The Hill, both McCain and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) added amendments to last month's Department of Defence authorization bill to limit the use of biofuels by the department.
The Obama administration isn't letting the criticism slow down the process. This week the Navy, Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy announced $62 million in new biofuel investments, a public-private effort made possible under the Defense Production Act of 1950.