Navy program shows how to achieve carbon cuts — Obama adviser 

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015

Brian Deese, President Obama’s new senior adviser on climate change, praised the Navy’s biofuels initiative as an example of an innovative way to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions in light of the executive order Obama signed yesterday to lower the government’s carbon footprint.The order commits the federal government to reduce carbon dioxide output by 21 million metric tons by 2025, a 40 percent cut from 2008 levels.

Speaking at a press briefing about that announcement yesterday, Deese noted that the Defense Department has already been collaborating with the Agriculture and Energy departments to invest in biofuel production. Those investments are ultimately meant to spur larger industry growth, with the idea that the Navy could eventually replace diesel with drop-in biofuels.

“We’re quite optimistic that we’re going to be able to push the envelope in those spaces,” Deese said of the biofuels program. “And that’s part of the theory of the case behind the announcement that we are making today.”

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has championed biofuels as a way to diversify the services’ fuel sources and help the United States achieve its broader national security goals.

In September, the Defense Department invested a total of $210 million in three biofuel companies to develop 10 million gallons per year of biofuels. DOD has not yet committed to purchasing any biofuel, though Mabus has said the Navy would do so once it becomes cost-competitive with diesel.

Deese said yesterday that though he does not know when the Navy would be able to actually use biofuels on a large scale, “I can tell you that these opportunities are increasingly becoming cost-effective.”

“As you think about where the military is deployed around the world and the circumstances that they’re put in, the ability to have alternative sources both of electricity, where you’re not reliant on the grid, but also fuels is increasingly important from a mission standpoint as well as a cost standpoint,” Deese said.

Those points were echoed today at a panel of national security officials speaking about the impacts of climate change at Georgetown University Law School.

“Energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gases, these are all things that are consistent with our mission,” said John Conger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for energy, installations and environment. “We see the efforts outlined in the president’s latest executive order as consistent with and complementary to that.”

DOD spends an average of $4 billion per year in electricity costs and $14 billion for fuel. In addition to the Navy’s biofuels initiative, the Navy, Army and Air Force have each pledged to buy or build 1 gigawatt worth of alternative energy by 2025.

These initiatives have less to do with climate change and more to do with the ability to respond to conflicts, Conger said.

“When you are more energy efficient, you are more resilient. That is not an additional duty, it is what we do,” he said. “We are doing this out of completely selfish reasons. We want to get more bang for our buck, pun intended.”