Friday, July 6, 2012

Admiral Of The Great Green Fleet

Anchors aweigh! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. We have not yet begun to fight. Those have been the battle cries of the US Navy for decades and even centuries. Now we have to add a new one: “Damn the expense, we’re running on pond scum!” July will mark the first time the Navy has used biofuel in an operational maneuver. Five Navy ships of the Great Green Fleet will be cruising off Hawaii, using a 50/50 mixture of biofuel and traditional fuel.

In pursuit of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus's plan to wean the Navy off traditional fossil fuels, he has ordered that 50% of the fleet must be entirely fueled by alternative fuels by the year 2020. Now that's better than the other civilian green weenie plan to require all-electric cars on the road by 2040, but not much better.

So what is this miracle fuel? It's biofuel, made up of sticks, twigs, seeds, algae and chicken fat. The downside, the fuel costs six to seven times as much as traditional fuel ($3.60 per gallon versus $26.00 per gallon). The upside, we have lots of sticks, twigs, seeds, algae and chicken fat and we can always print more greenbacks to pay for them. It's green all the way around. Since the Navy hasn't figured out how to fit ships to be run by solar power or wind turbines, why not use a technology already available?

The proponents of biofuel tell us that there will be no additional expense because engines do not have to be converted to use the biofuel. They haven't told us yet what will happen to the engines after two or three years of use of the biofuel. But what the heck, it's green and that's all that's important. They also assure us that the costs will go down, eventually. I suspect their "experts" are former employees of Solyndra.

Those reactionary Republicans are questioning the efficacy of the green fleet program. But more than that, they are questioning its immense cost. The US Navy is one of the world's largest consumers of fuel. A six or seven times price disparity between traditional fuels and biofuels is no small matter. And we are just supposed to take the "experts'" word for the eventual decrease in biofuel prices. Republican House Member Randy Forbes of the Armed Services Committee says that biofuel will always be more expensive, and demands that the Secretary produce actual studies backing up the contention of future lower fuel prices.

The green fleet proponents also invoke the spurious arguments about patriotism and self-sufficiency. They also use the ruse of referring to costs as "investments." Says Secretary Mabus's office: "Investment 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 foreigh oil and thus less subject to volatility in oil prices that directly affect our readiness." Notice how he slyly manages to avoid talking about becoming less dependent on foreign oil by encouraging domestic production instead of trying to kill it in the name of the greening of America.

Green weenies never look at cause and effect, supply and demand, or the market. At some point in the future, the technology may be sufficient, the demand adequate, and the need genuine, such that this alternative fuel might be an answer. But for now, this is ideology over practicality. In the middle of an economic crisis, with enemies facing us on multiple fronts, this is no time to be messing with the fleet.


Anonymous said...

The Navy started energy efficiency and energy independence programs long before Obama and they're doing it so the fleet can still operate if we are cut off from foreign oil sources. Also, the effective price is $15 per gallon once it's mixed at the 50/50 ratio and is expected to fall to $7 over time as the refineries are built, which is not a high price to pay compared to being stuck in port if war breaks out and we are cut off.

Individualist said...


The price of the Biofuel is $26 per gallon. Since we can spend $3.50 this is a marginal difference if $22.50.

The costs we are talking about are variable costs not fixed so averaging the costs by assuming 50% at $3.50 and 50 at $26 would be a pointless method of analysis. The fact that I by half the fuel at another price does not change the marginal cost.

As to expecting it to fall because of refineries being built. My first question is why should this be so. What economies of scale are there especially given that the same environmental types block the buiding of refineries.

As to this not being a high price to pay I don't follow your logic. If I can get oil domestically at 3.50 from opening Anwar and Oil Shale exactly how do I improve my situation by paying for much more expensive fake oil.

One last thing I am assuming your $7 figure derives from an average of 50/50 since you use it as a comparison to the 15 figure. If one wanted an average cost of $7 then the marginal cost would be reduced to $10.50 and not $7.

Beyond that I have a qiuestion for you. If it is damaging to the ecosystem for us to cut down trees and convert land to commercial use as the environmentalist tell us it is. How is it not damaging to convert that land to the use of proving biofuel.

It seems to me that the quantities of biomass needed would far exceed any drive to save grass clippings. So I even question that this boifuel is somehow better for the environment than oil gotten from oil shale or wells. After all you need very little real estate to collect oil as opposed to growing crops for ethanol.

Just a few questions for you.

K said...

We can dispense with the "experiment" of US navy use of biofuels just as soon as the Canadian pipeline and other sources of continental north American oil are opened up. Something that should have been done a long time ago instead of having to intervene in the politics of 7th century barbarians while simultaneously enriching them with the money to destroy us and subvert our culture.

We already have leftists for that.

tryanmax said...

Conceptually, I'm in favor of the Navy (and any military branch) outfitting its vehicles to run on a variety of fuels. However, I am sure they understand the strategic advantages of that far better than Congress. This is a solution in search of a problem. (So what else is new?)

rlaWTX said...

It's the arbitrary percentages that worry me - what routine things will not get done for the fleet because they are trying to meet the deadlines imposed?

At least this requirement actually exists - unlike that other additive required that doesn't exist yet!

OT: anyone heard anything about this - I seemed to have missed it:

T-Rav said...

Hey, how about they deck out the ships with solar panels? Lots of surface area, ships go through warm, balmy climates much of the time--makes sense, right? I mean, I guess the military's chief purpose now is to advertise how progressive we are, so it makes sense.

LawHawkRFD said...

Anonymous: It's a price too high to pay when we have abundant traditional fuels sitting unused because of Obama policies and Democratic cap and tax policies. If you have read any of our past environmental articles, you would know that we don't object to development of alternative energy sources. We object to wasting time and money on unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions in the name of currently impractical environmentalism.

The article is pretty clear about "being stuck in port" when we have abundant oil reserves that we're not allowed to use as we're mixing foreign oil with biofuels. We'd only be "stuck" because the government is once again favoring one form of fuel over another as a matter of political policy.

I also addressed your "expected to fall" comment in the article. The price of fuel for the Navy and everyone else would have fallen a long time ago if we had been allowed to drill for domestic oil and update or build traditional refineries.

You juggled the numbers the same way the administration did. The biofuel itself is itself six to seven times as expensive as traditional fuel oil. However you mix it, it's still too expensive and will remain so for years or even decades to come.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: I agree, as do many of the scientists and experts not in thrall to green radical environmentalism or on the federal payroll (in one form or another).

LawHawkRFD said...

K: I think anonymous missed the point. Biofuel may be the wave of the future. But we have to live in the present while planning for the future. In times of plenty, with a strong economy and general peace worldwide, much can be tolerated which is too dangerous in our current political and economic environment.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: All of the "green" alternative energy sources may someday have replaced oil. That's probably a good thing. But timing is everything. This is the wrong time.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Our Navy used to have it's own strategic fuel supplies.
That source was eliminated by Bill Clinton.
The US Navy had the Elk Hills oil patch as a hedge against ever having a fuel shortage that could cripple our naval operations.
The Elk Hills area is a bustling operation today because of that privatization. You don't suppose the operators of the area today were big time supporters of old Bill do you?
Oxy is the largest operator in the western Kern County oil fields known as the Elk Hills.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: That is one of the weaknesses in the current policy. And it's a big one. Those arbitrary goals go farther toward potentially stranding our fleet in port than I care to think. Cutting off traditional fuel sources which we have in abundance in favor of as-yet economically (and perhaps technologically) impractical sources is foolish.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I purposely avoided the obvious. Wind power. If it hadn't been for those pesky engines, we'd still be using it. Instead, we put perfectly good sailmaking companies out of business.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tehachapi Tom: That's true, and it wasn't the only source reserved for the military. Clinton's anti-military policies are now buttressed by Obama's radical environmental policies, a deadly combination. And remember that is was Clinton who said (speaking of ANWR) "even if we started drilling and refining immediately, it would still take ten years before the fuel came on line." Those ten years came and went, but the drilling and refining didn't because of radical environmentalism. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tennessee Jed said...

With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan: "They gathered up the algae so carefully, that now they are the leaders of Big O's Navy . . . then they kissed the leader's butt so carefully that we can't afford to put our ships out to sea."."

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I knew Pinafore (or maybe Pirates of Penzance) would rear its head sooner or later. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Leave it to you to come up with a working solution. Alternatively, we could use kiddie fat instead of chicken fat in the biofuel.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I bet a lot of the environmentalists could get on board with that latest suggestion of yours. Zero population growth is the key, don't you know.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: ZPG and green energy! What could be better? I think we should suggest this to the Obamists.

Individualist said...

I am told that there are no refineries yet that can even translate grass into ethyl alcohol.

Also I am told that currently the ethyl alcohol made from Corn requires more gas to make it than it provides in fuel.

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