On Friday June 29 a U.S. Navy carrier strike group set sail from Puget Sound to participate in “Rim of the Pacific” maneuvers. More than 20 nations are involved in the six-week maneuvers, which featured a key difference for the American fleet. The carriers had filled up on biofuel at a cost of nearly $27 a gallon, more than seven times as high as the usual $3.60 a gallon of conventional fuel. The massive cost increase is the result of President Obama linking the national security of the United States to his own environmental agenda.
As the politically correct line has it, conventional fuel is scarce, environmentally destructive, and has to be procured from dangerous areas of the world. Therefore, biofuels made domestically from seeds, algae, chicken fat and such will enhance the security of the military and the nation itself. A great deal more than security is in play here. Consider, for example, the source of the biofuels.
T.J. Glauthier, a board member of Solazyme Inc., was deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Energy from 1999-2001. Then he served on Barack Obama’s White House transition team, working specifically on energy provisions in the president’s stimulus package. Conveniently enough, Solazyme received a stimulus grant of $21.8 million to build a refinery for biofuels.
According to a Reuters report, in 2009 the Pentagon paid Solazyme $8.5 million for 20,055 gallons of algae-based biofuel, which works out to $424 a gallon. Last year the order was 450,000 gallons, the biggest-ever biofuel order from government, at a cost of $12 million, which works out to more than $26 a gallon. Blended with conventional fuels, the cost is supposed to be $15 a gallon but under no scenario is the cost of biofuels less than twice as much as conventional fuel. Even so, the plan is 50 percent biofuels for the Navy by 2016. But some analysts see a problem on the practical side.
James Bartis of the RAND Corporation says the amount of biofuels that can be produced is “a drop in the bucket” compared to the vast needs of the Pentagon, which uses 321,000 barrels of oil a day. Bartis estimates the maximum amount of fuel from chicken fat at 30,000 barrels a day, with up to 50,000 barrels a day from other sources such as seeds. That’s not nearly enough, so the plan makes no economic or practical sense. It did, however, serve up a revelation on the media side.
Many reporters are hawks on the military budget, delighting to decry the $600 toilet seat and other alleged wasted. But $26-a-gallon biofuel, purchased from an Obama crony who’s company got a stimulus grant from the Obama administration, did not create media outrage over profiteering or raise comparisons to Haliburton. The huge fuel cost increase comes during a recession and a time of high employment. But the burden of environmental orthodoxy on U.S. taxpayers did not get much play. Neither did security concerns, the real back story here.
The U.S. military is not a democracy and therefore an ideal place for a left-wing president to deploy a command economy and impose political correctness. The President of the United States is the commander in chief of the U.S. Military. All military personnel must do what he says, at risk of their jobs. President Truman, for example, fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a national hero. True to form, Secretary of the Navy Ray Babus is the biggest biofuels booster, otherwise he would likely be fired and replaced.
A Navy whose fuel costs are seven times more expensive than necessary is a Navy that will be more reluctantly deployed. Sometimes that may be a good thing but other times definitely not. The purpose of the U.S. Navy and the entire military establishment is to fight wars and protect the security of the United States and its allies. Unfortunately, the military has become a target-rich environment for environmental orthodoxy and political correctness. If national leaders truly want to enhance security, they should consider other measures.
Obtain fuel at lower prices by enabling oil production in the United States. That will enhance the strategic reserve and maintain readiness. But fuel concerns are secondary to the way ships are deployed. For example, leaders should avoid docking warships such as the USS Cole in dangerous ports such as Aden, in Yemen, one of the worst havens for terrorists.
If a U.S. warship happens to dock there, do not essentially disarm the guards and tell them not to deal with any potential threat, such as suspicious boats, until actually attacked. Instead, give them sufficient arms, ammunition and orders to blow such threats out of the water at a distance, before they can explode bombs that kill 17 Americans, cause $250 million in damage, and hand terrorists a huge victory.
National leaders might also want to shore up longstanding alliances and take measures against terrorist regimes before, not after, they obtain nuclear weapons.
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