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Navy hosts Senate energy subcommittee hearing

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NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy hosted a field hearing for the Senate Energy subcommittee on water and power last month aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), moored at Naval Station Norfolk.

The subcommittee received testimony on energy and water policies being implemented by Department of the Navy (DoN) operations and facilities.

During his testimony, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus spoke of the DoN's fuel and water conservation efforts and the importance of energy independence.

"Today, the United States controls just two percent of known global oil reserves, but we consume over 20 percent of the world's oil," Mabus said. "The math is clear, even if we opened up every possible source of oil available to us, it wouldn't be enough to supply our needs."

Mabus said the Navy and Marine Corps cannot remain content or complacent in how they use, produce or procure energy.

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus gives a statement to the media before testifying at a U.S. Senate energy subcommittee on water and power aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers/U.S. Navy/Released

"For every dollar charged for a barrel of oil, the [DoN] spends $30 million. When unrest in some oil producing regions broke out last year, the price of a barrel increased by $30, which increased the Navy's fuel bill by over $1 billion," Mabus said. "That additional $1 billion in fuel costs, that we could not have planned for, left us having to take money out of operations, meaning our Sailors and Marines steamed less, flew less and trained less."

Mabus said the Navy's investments in biofuels have brought costs down and he believes those prices will continue to come down with increased demand.

"Alternative fuels cannot become competitive with oil unless there is a demand for them. But demand at a commercial scale will never be possible unless there is the supply to meet that demand," Mabus said. "Purchases of small amounts for our research efforts has shown dramatic results in lowering the cost of biofuels, which cost half as much today as they did just two years ago."

Former U.S. Sen. and former Secretary of the Navy John Warner, led one of the panels and spoke about the impact further Navy research and development will have going forward.

"Since we are here to talk specifically about the Navy, I would note that the Navy is on the leading edge across all initiatives, especially when it comes to development and use of biofuel," Warner said.

"Navy scientists and engineers have developed great expertise in assessing both the advantages, and even the limitations, of biofuels. Their research and development has proven the concepts of 'drop in fuels' in aircraft and ships."

The Navy plans to launch what Mabus calls the "Great Green Fleet" during this year's Rim of the Pacific Exercise. Mabus said the ships and aircraft of RIMPAC will demonstrate their ability to run on biofuel later this summer and the Green Fleet will deploy operating on biofuel in 2016.

"The Great Green Fleet is not about some environmental agenda," Mabus said. "It is about maintaining America's military and economic leadership across the globe in the 21st Century. In the middle of the 19th Century, it was the Navy that shifted from sail to steam. In the early 20th Century, we shifted again from steam to oil, and in the middle of the 20th Century it was the Navy that pioneered nuclear power. At each of those transitions, there were those who questioned the need, challenged the cost or simply opposed change of any kind."

In addition to the Green Fleet, Mabus unveiled a number of short- and long-term DoN energy goals he said are designed to achieve energy security and independence.

* Energy Efficient Acquisition: Evaluation of energy factors will be mandatory when awarding contracts for systems and buildings.

* Reduce Non-Tactical Petroleum Use: By 2015, DoN will reduce petroleum use in the commercial fleet by 50 percent.

* Increase Alternative Energy Ashore: By 2020, DoN will produce at least 50 percent of shore-based energy requirements from alternative sources; 50 percent of DON installations will be net-zero.

* Increase Alternative Energy Use DoN-Wide: By 2020, 50 percent of total DoN energy consumption will come from alternative sources.

"Maximizing the combat capability of our platforms through energy efficiency and energy innovation is what the Navy's energy program is about," said Vice Adm. Philip Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics.

Cullom addressed the congressional panel about the need to take this sea-change to the deckplate in order for it to succeed.

"We are driving this change through formal education, in the training pipeline and on the deckplate," Cullom said. "With contributions from every Sailor, at every level, we will achieve our energy vision so that we remain 'Paratus et Potens'...'Ready and Able.'"

In addition to Mabus, Warner and Cullom, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Tom Hicks, Rear Adm. Tim Alexander, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic; Maj. Gen James Kessler, commander of Marine Corps Installations Command; and Col. Bob Charette, director of Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, each provided testimony.

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