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The Navy Gives A Heave-Ho to Oil in Favor of Biofuel

Biofuel Powers the Navy Next time you’re frying bacon, you can feel good knowing you might be helping to protect the freedoms of America. Sounds pretty random, which I’m of course known for, but there is actually a true parallel that exists here. It seems that the Navy Seals have taken a few days off from their usual heroics to kick some booty on the energy front.

According to the WSJ, the Navy has opted to use biofuel to power five U.S. warships, along with the jet planes and helicopters that accompany the carriers. The fuel is a combo of algae oil and cooking grease (hence the bacon reference). Fortunately for the Navy, there should never be a shortage of cooking grease, since it appears that Americans’ taste for fried foods is hardly on the decline. (Understatement much?) Of course, with all things in their infancy (including babies – and toddlers, for that matter) with this innovation comes a hefty price tag.

Evidently, John McCain is up in arms about this development: “Using defense dollars to subsidize new energy technologies is not the Navy’s responsibility.” I think “subsidize” might not be the right word, John. Though I’d like to give the Navy its proper due, I hardly think that’s the objective – to intentionally foster innovation in the energy space. Clearly it’s all about making an initial investment in order to reduce costs over the long term. The fact that he would even use the term, however, does illustrate the potential impact that the Navy’s oil consumption has on the industry.

So, what is the Navy’s objective here? Why spend the money? Have they developed a green conscience? What exactly is in it for them? According to the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus — and I’m paraphrasing– our reliance on oil could ultimately lead to our undoing. Increases in the price of crude oil has led to cuts in Navy and Marines steaming, flying and training, which could potentially affect the efficacy of our armed services. And then what is the point of having a military at all, if it’s not the strongest it can be?

Further, if no one begins to actively apply these technologies, the resources needed to cultivate them will not be advanced. There is obviously going to be an initial up-front cost. Once the infrastructure is in place and biofuel consumption increases, the prices will ultimately decrease. And the cost to the environment will lessen in kind.

As a country, I think we need to ask ourselves this question: What is the cost to the environment if we don’t take these steps? War already ravages the environment. The military can at least do its part in minimizing the collateral damage it does, to people and otherwise. After all, why bother to defend a country that we’re slowly destroying on our own?

Alexa Hughes is blogger extraordinaire for Power2Switch, a comparison-shopping site for consumers seeking lower electric rates, based out of Chicago. You can find Alexa on Twitter.

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