Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josue Escobosa
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN – The greatest maritime force in the world is gearing up to go green.

The Department of the Navy (DoN) is making plans to significantly reduce its energy dependence on fossil fuels by the year 2020.

“It’s a matter of making sure that when we need those ships at sea, when we need those aircraft in the air, when we need the Marines on the ground, we have the energy produced right here in the United States to do that,” said secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus.

The DoN started making great strides to achieve energy independence last year, testing an F-18 Hornet deemed “The Green Hornet” by Mabus. The supersonic jet performed flight operations on a mixture of gasoline and biofuel derived from camelina, a small mustard seed that can be grown in rotation with wheat in every state.

The Navy’s first hybrid ship, USS Makin Island (LHD 8 ) sailed from Pascagoula, Miss. to San Diego using an electric drive while traveling at speeds of 10 knots or less. This measure saved almost $2 million in fuel costs.

“Over the lifetime of that ship, if fuel prices remain absolutely the same, we will save about a quarter of a billion dollars in fuel,” said Mabus. “We’re prototyping that engine to be retrofitted onto our guided-missile destroyers so that we can begin to move that further out into the fleet.”

The Navy has outlined a series of goals and deadlines in order to make a serious change in energy consumption. The DoN plans for half of the total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks vehicles and shore installation to come from alternative sources.

In addition to the monetary benefits, these new initiatives also provide tactical advantages for Sailors and Marines serving overseas.

“The example I like to use is getting a gallon of gasoline to a Marine front line unit in Afghanistan,” said Mabus. “You have to put that gallon of gasoline on a tanker. You’ve got to take it across the Pacific. You have to put it into a truck and truck it over the Hindu Kush and down through Afghanistan. Now, as you do this, you’ve got to guard it.”

By using alternative energy, Mabus explained that Marines can go back to “what Marines should be doing: fighting, engaging, and helping to rebuild that country.”

Beyond the sea, the DoN is also making an effort to utilize solar energy by awarding contracts to construct solar photovoltaic plants on Navy and Marine Corps installations in the southwestern region of the United States.

SECNAV realizes that these ambitious goals are likely to be met with some degree of hesitance.

“We changed from sail to coal in the 1850s. We changed from coal to oil n the early part of the 20th century. We went to nuclear for our subs and our aircraft carriers in the 1950s,” said Mabus. “Every single time that we made one of those changes, there were people that said you are abandoning one source of proven energy for one that you do not know will work, and by the way, it’s too expensive.”

Mabus believes alternative energy will once again be evidence that progressive thoughts and actions will prove beneficial in the end.

The United States has an abundance of natural resources, including wind, water and solar energy that can prove a valuable asset to military operations. With a lot of hard work and a little faith the DoN hopes to send a Great Green Fleet out to sea and with it a message of power and independence.