The U.S. Navy has used a biofuel to operate a boat at full power for the first time, the Pentagon announced, and it plans to create an alternatively fueled carrier strike group within two years.
An experimental riverine command boat zipped through the water Friday at the Norfolk, Virginia, naval base, burning a 50/50 blend of algae-based fuel and a water-free diesel known as HR-D, the Navy said in a press release.
Earlier this year, the Navy flew an F-18 Hornet fighter jet – nicknamed the Green Hornet – on a blend of camelina-based fuel and gasoline, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at an energy security forum at the Pentagon. Camelina is a plant that produces oily seeds similar to flax.
Moving away from petroleum-based fuels will increase national security and keep American service personnel safer, Mabus said.
“Getting a gallon of gasoline to a Marine at Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan is not easy,” he said. “Every single day, young sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen guard those vulnerable fuel convoys as they move from the logistics hubs to our FOBs. Gasoline is the single thing we import the most into Afghanistan.”
The Navy plans to launch a carrier strike group – about 10 ships – powered entirely by alternative fuels, including nuclear, the Navy said. Those ships will be activated as the Great Green Fleet in 2016.
"Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy's mobility," said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, which leads the Navy's Task Force on Energy. "It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum.
"First and foremost, energy conservation extends tactical range of our forces while also preserving precious resources. Our goal, as a Navy, is to be an 'early adopter' of new technologies that enhance national security in an environmentally sustainable way."