Realize the Great Green Fleet
by Daniel Orchard-Hays and Laura A. King (U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine) The U.S. Navy’s initiative could pave the way for a Department of Defense energy program that garners precious energy resources in peacetime and saves lives in war. — … In July 2008, world oil prices peaked at an all-time high of $142 per barrel at the end of a meteoric rise from $39 per barrel in 2004. This 350 percent increase, followed by prices that remained between $80 and $120 per barrel until 2015, put sufficient strain on the fuel budgets of the military services to create a strong incentive for finding efficiencies and reducing consumption.
DOD should embrace the Navy’s Great Green Fleet concept as an example of how technology, metrics, processes, tools, and organizational structures can combine to sustain an energy-cognizant warfighting culture.
Energy Efficiency Saves Lives
Following his experiences in Iraq in 2003, Lieutenant General James Mattis, then-commander of the 1st Marine Division, demanded the armed services work together to “unleash us from the tether of fuel.” 2 For soldiers and Marines, energy efficiency saves lives. Increases in vehicle weights and in the number of radios, vehicles, computers, and air conditioning systems necessary for cooling computer equipment all combined to incrementally expand fuel demand per soldier and Marine in the field since Vietnam. The more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan highlighted the enemy’s willingness to exploit the U.S. requirement for fuel convoys in the country. Enemy attacks resulted in one Marine casualty for every 50 convoys and one Army casualty for every 24 convoys. 3
Responsible for 85 percent of DOD’s fuel consumption, the Air Force and Navy developed similar policies aimed at reducing demand, expanding supply, and increasing efficiency. They collaborated on testing and certifying advanced alternative fuels, a key initiative that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus pursued vigorously when he took office in 2009. 11 The Air Force further directed the development of a culture that values energy, an objective the Navy adopted as part of its 2016 Great Green Fleet. 12 All the military services began investing a portion of their budgets in acquisition of energy-efficient technologies.
Toward A Great Green Fleet
Future military systems will bring higher overall consumption. A 2014 study for the Navy’s operational analysis branch concluded the Navy’s future ships, aircraft, and other systems will consume 19 percent more fuel. Ship fuel requirements are expected to increase 27 percent between 2012 and 2030.13 The Navy’s most recent shipbuilding plan calls for 355 ships. Oil price forecasts vary for 2030, but historical trends show the price per barrel will rise. The combination of more systems with higher fuel consumption rates and oil price increases presents a significant future budget challenge.
Meanwhile, recent service investments in technological advancements have yielded minimal results. The one notable success has been in alternative fuels. In 2016, the Navy deployed the Great Green Fleet using more than 48 million gallons of F-76—the Navy’s marine diesel fuel blended with 10 percent advanced alternative fuels made from Midwest beef tallow. The first bulk purchase of an advanced alternative fuel by the Defense Logistics Agency cost $2.05 a gallon for the blended product, very competitive with regular petroleum-based fuel. 14
DOD should use the Great Green Fleet as an example of how to build and sustain an energy-cognizant warfighting culture. Task Force Energy should be transformed into a fleet-operational energy program. It must provide operators with the metrics, processes, tools, and organizational structures necessary to evaluate energy efficiency independent of fuel price fluctuations. Realizing the potential of the Great Green Fleet will pave the way for a DOD energy program that garners precious energy resources in peacetime and saves lives in war. READ MORE