Mabus speaks at Mississippi State biofuels conference
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke at the Mississippi State University’s 6th annual biofuels conference last week. Mabus, who served as governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, spoke about Mississippi’s future in the biorefining sector. He also provided attendees with background information on the U.S. Navy’s interest in biofuels.
During his keynote address, he spoke briefly about the new initiative the Navy has embarked on in cooperation with the USDA and U.S. DOE. Under the initiative the three institutions have pledged to contribute $510 million to support the development of a geographically disperse network of biorefineries. Industry is required to match the spending at a minimum one-to-one ratio. A request for information that was issued as the initiative closed last week. According to Mabus, more than 100 companies have expressed interest in taking part in the initiative.
While Mabus has spoken extensively about the Navy’s interest in biofuels and renewable energy in recent months, he did speak to some unique points during his appearance at MSU. The Navy itself has more than 55 percent of its 285 ships at sea today, Mabus noted. Those ships are not only undertaking activities in relation to wars in the Middle East, they are also working to ensure that people all around the world have free access to the world’s oceans. “Ninety percent of the world’s commerce goes by oceans; 95 percent of the world’s telecommunications goes underneath the ocean,” he said. The Navy’s presence is integral to keeping those channels open.
“When you are in a military organization, one of the things you look at are the vulnerabilities of your potential adversaries, but you better look at your own vulnerabilities too,” Mabus said. When the Navy and Marine Corps set out to identify their vulnerabilities, Mabus said fuel rose to the top of the list pretty quickly. “We simply buy too much fossil fuels from potentially volatile places on earth,” he said. “We would never allow some of these countries we buy fuel from to build our ships, to build our aircraft, to build our ground vehicles, but we give them a say in whether our ships sail, our aircraft fly, our ground vehicles operate.” Every time the price of a barrel of fuel rises $1, Mabus says that costs the Navy $31 million in increased fuel costs. The result is that the military is able to run fewer operations and complete fewer training exercises.
While there are environmental motivations for using renewable fuels, Mabus stressed that the only reason the Navy is looking to renewable energy and biofuels is to be better war fighters. “We are doing this to be a better military organization,” he said. People who say that renewable energy is a fad or a way to be politically correct are wrong about the Navy’s motivations,” he continued. “Energy security is national security; energy security is independence, and if we don’t do it as a military force, we are taking a huge risk that is not justified,” Mabus said. “Navy and Marine Corps are going to do in energy what we always do in everything. We’re going to innovate, we are going to adapt, and we are going to come out of the other side victorious. My favorite Navy recruiting poster has a phrase ‘Sometimes we follow the storm to the shore, sometimes we are the storm.’”