Militaries have a tough, often messy job to do, and as such taking steps to polish their green credentials generally isn't a high priority. But the potential cost savings – not to mention the tactical advantages – of going green are not lost on U.S. Armed Forces' top brass. The Army has pursued "zero footprint" base camps, and the Air Force is looking into a variety of alternative propellants that could be turned into jet fuel. Now the Navy is going green, signing a memorandum of understanding with the USDA to demo a Green Strike Group of biofuel- and nuclear-powered vessels by 2012.
On its face, the Navy's plan is fairly ambitious. Though there are already plenty of nuclear-powered submarines and other naval vessels in the fleet, the Navy also possesses a pretty big carbon footprint; it has some 50,000 non-tactical vehicles burning petroleum, and naval bases aren't exactly models of efficiency and prudent power usage. Over the next decade, that's going to change.
The Navy will demo the green-powered tactical group, known as the Green Strike Group, by 2012, and will officially take to the seas for regular operations with a Great Green Fleet by 2016. That's not just green ships; Naval airplanes and any surface combat equipment will run on biofuels as well.
By 2015, that 50,000 strong fleet of non-tactical vehicles will cut its petroleum use by half, phasing in flex-fuel and hybrid vehicles in the place of petro-burners. By 2020, at least half of shore-based installations' power will be derived from alternative sources, and half of all installations will be net zero consumers of energy.
It's not all for show either: by 2020, the Department of the Navy also plans to halve the fossil fuel consumption entirely, across the entire force. That means ships, aircraft, tanks, shore vehicles and naval bases will all be switching to a half alternative fuel diet by the time the next decade dawns.
For an entity with as much entrenched culture and institutional hard-headedness as the Navy, it's a pretty ambitious timeline. It's not fair to say this is all because the Navy gives a hoot; fuel convoys have become popular targets for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Navy has to keep the supply lines open for the troops on the ground, putting sailors, soldiers and marines in harms way. But be it tactical shrewdness or good environmental stewardship, it's good to see the largest consumers of energy in the U.S. federal government greening up their acts.
Its good to see the government leading by example, at least the DOD anyway.
It is heartening to see this kind of effort, true. It just sucks that the only reason the navy can provide such a rapid timetable is because the are afforded such a MASSIVE budget.
What could true green agencies do with a fraction of that money?
Sounds good except that it takes petroleum to make bio fuels, so the whole process releases more carbon to the atmosphere then would just using petroleum. Not to mention driving the prices of food up etc.
Sounds as though this is a combination of PR, desire to be green, and moving money from our taxes to private interests.
The us military are nearly criminal offenders against the environment. My time spent in Iraq saw tons and tons of garbage burned in heaps.
Stories came from my brother in the Navy of discretely throwing their garbage overboard when told that it needed to "disappear" by morning. When we talk about the floating island of garbage in the Pacific he gets ashamed because he knows some of it is his putting it there.
And then there is the fuel spilling. When he told me you could see diesel fuel for as far as you could see, one would hope that this "green" fleet is everything that we want it to be.
The assumption that fuel convoys would become unnecessary is naive. Those convoys will remain targets whether they carry diesel or vegetable oil. The article makes no mention of the strategic value of so-called "green" fuels, and I suspect that this move is far more political than strategic.
But I also suspect much of it is for show to quiet the yammering of the current administration. And if the sh*t hits the fan, you can be sure we'll get our fuel from the most readily available sources, whether it's a farm field or an oil well. Treehuggers are the *last* people I want in charge of military operations to protect this country and its interests.
Does anyone else see the masonic symbol created by the wake of these American war machines?
It's all most perfect!
Nuclear is not green.
Simply dumping nuclear waste into the vast ocean system also does make it green or disappear.
Clay Dillow was fed malarkey and is now passing that malarkey onto us.
It probably is a fake article penned by the Pentagon.
Shame on Clay Dillow and shame on Popular Science for trying to redefine green as corporate and military culture would desire.
I think the "Green-ness" of this program is just for public relations. The Navy is probably worried about the security of its fuel supplies. If a major war breaks out in the Middle East and cuts off oil supplies, they want a biofuel/nuclear alternative to keep the engines running. But given the current political climate I think "Green" gets you a lot more funding than "Security".
@Dougherty2010 Woooo!!! Did you see the face in the clouds? Or the solution to pie in the number of waves?
lnwolf41 @ leecal, the nuclear power system is a closed loop, there is no nuclear waste on board. And yes the navy dumps all its trash overboard in plastic baggs. As for going green, if you want to ensure you have fuel availble to run your equipment, you set up alternatives before you need them. FYI the US as enough oil reserves to run the military machine for 2-3 years.
Inwolf41, you are correct that Navy reactors are closed loop and therefore no waste goes overboard. However, you are wrong about the trash. It has been years since the Navy disposed of its trash over the side in plastic. Only food contaminated, non-plastics can go over the side now. Every ship in the Navy has a plastics recycling system that makes giant plastic discs out of the plastic waste generated on board, which are stored until the ship reaches port and the discs can be transferred to a recycling facility. Food contaminated plastics that cannot be recycled are stored onboard until the ship reaches port where they can be disposed of or sent to a recycling facility that can handle food contaminated recyclables.
The only problem I see with the green Strike Group plan, is the ability to actually move and procure the amount of bio-fuel a CSG will consume over the length of a deployment.