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The Navy is deploying a “Great Green Fleet” of energy efficient ships running on cow fat to demonstrate America’s standing in the world.
U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus teamed up with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for the first deployment of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group in San Diego on Wednesday.
The “Great Green Fleet” is a riff on President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet,” the largest naval deployment ever attempted when its battleships set sail in 1907.
Mabus’ and Vilsack’s deployment is to better the environment.
“The Great Green Fleet is a Department of the Navy initiative highlighting how the Navy and Marine Corps are using energy efficiency and alternative energy to increase combat capability and operational flexibility,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “At the close of the ceremony, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) left the pier to begin its deployment, becoming the first U.S. Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend as part of its regular operations.”
Mabus said the renewable energy ships, equipped with LED lights, show off America’s power.
"When it comes to power, my focus has been about one thing and one thing only: better warfighting," Mabus saids. "The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer, and deliver more firepower. In short, to enable us to provide the global presence that is our mission."
The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group’s ships are run on “alternative fuel made from waste beef fat.” The military plans to use cow fat and other alternative fuel sources as its primary fuel supply.
“Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us,” Mabus said.
"The Navy's use of renewable energy in the Great Green Fleet represents its ability to diversify its energy sources, and also our nation's ability to take what would be a waste product and create homegrown, clean, advanced biofuels to support a variety of transportation needs," Vilsack said.
The USS John C. Stennis is deploying to the Western Pacific for training exercises, and to build capacity with allies in the region.
The fuel, made from beef fat, cost the military approximately $159.08 million.
“The advanced fuel blend was produced by California-based AltAir Fuels from a feedstock of beef tallow—waste beef fat—provided by Midwest farmers and ranchers, and traditional petroleum provided by Tesoro,” according to the press release. The Defense Logistics Agency awarded a contract to AltAir Fuels for 77.6 million gallons of the alternative fuel blend, at a cost to DLA of $2.05 per gallon, making it cost competitive with traditional fuel.”
The deployment of the green energy ships comes just after the Pentagon issued a new directive for all military branches to “assess and manage risks associated with the impacts of climate change.”
The Great Green Fleet helped accomplish one of Secretary Mabus’s major goals for the Navy.
“Sailing the Great Green Fleet in 2016 was one of the five energy goals Sec. Mabus set in 2009 for the Navy and Marine Corps,” the agency said. “It was named to honor President Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet, which helped usher in America as a global power on the world stage at the beginning of the 20th Century. The [Great Green Fleet] GGF will usher in the next era of Navy and Marine Corp energy innovation.”
The Great White Fleet refers to the four squadrons of warships commanded by Rear Admiral Robley “Fighting Bob” Evans after the turn of the 20th century.
The fleet embodied Roosevelt’s “deep conviction that only through a strong navy could a nation project its power and prestige abroad,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The battleships embarked on the first ever “round-the-world cruise by a fleet of steam-powered steel battleships.”
“We just wanted to let the world know we were prepared for anything they wanted to kick up,” one sailor said at the end of the cruise in 1909. “We wanted to show the world what we could do.”