When it comes to funding the military, costly biofuel experiments should not interfere with U.S. security interests. However, that’s exactly what’s happening right now as the Navy pursues a “Great Green Fleet,” which some Members of Congress argue “makes no sense.”
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus warns that America’s dependency on foreign oil poses a strategic vulnerability and claims biofuels are the antidote. Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, calls this notion “ridiculous,” arguing that biofuel production is “inefficient, expensive, and ultimately unsustainable.” The current price of one gallon of diesel fuel for the Department of Defense (DOD) is $3.60, compared to $26 for one gallon of biofuel.
Heritage’s Brian Slattery and Michaela Dodge outline some fundamental flaws of using biofuels in their paper “Biofuel Blunder: Navy Should Prioritize Fleet Modernization over Political Initiatives.” The principal flaw is based on evidence that biofuels are more corrosive than petroleum-based fuels, but even if the DOD committed to using biofuel, naval ships would still be forced to refuel with diesel in foreign ports due the lack of an international biofuel infrastructure.
A comprehensive study by the RAND Corporation also concluded that there is no direct benefit to the DOD or any branch of the military from investing in biofuels rather than conventional petroleum-based fuels.
Preparing the Navy to protect America’s national strategic interests should be the Obama Administration’s priority, not chasing political goals such as funding costly social projects. As further cuts to defense loom, Members of Congress should also act scrupulously to allocate sufficient funds to relevant Navy initiatives, such as shipbuilding and maintenance.
With the Navy’s fleet readiness already in jeopardy, neither the Administration nor Congress can afford to spend any additional time or money on expensive biofuel projects that sacrifice future responsiveness.
Clark Irvine is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.