On October 14, 2009, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus addressed a group of concerned individuals, much like yourselves, in a hotel in McLean, Virginia. The venue was the Naval Energy Forum. And the topic was more than merely “going green.”
“Changing the way we do business, looking to an energy-secure Navy and Marine Corps of the future, and leading the federal government in energy initiatives is what we must do,” Secretary Mabus said. “Energy reform is a strategic imperative.”**
At the event, Secretary Mabus announced the Great Green Fleet to the world – Navy’s new initiative to fuel the fleet, those at sea and on shore, with fifty percent of its power from clean, alternate energy sources by 2020; thus breaking the Navy’s dependence on foreign oil. The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil but controls the production of only 3 percent. Dependence on foreign fuel is one habit that will be hard to break, but as said by a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and the inspiration for the Great Green Fleet (based on his Great White Fleet), President Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.”
This Earth Day, we can all set the stage for sustainability by doing our parts to make the world a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient place. As role models in our communities, every effort to “go green” is a bold step forward in guiding the next generation.
In the Navy we forge leaders by leading by example – and in this case, the example is change. The Navy is not new to leading change, nor the hardships involved in shaping it. In the mid-nineteenth century the Navy made an intrepid move – changing from wind power to steam. Many swore against the dangerous and untrustworthy engines. But it was the ability to maneuver at will that saved Sailors in the Civil War. In the mid-twentieth century the world was aghast and afraid of nuclear technology and its deadly possibilities. But the Navy again saw innovation; developing safe nuclear reactors to power submarines – like the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear powered vessel. Now in the twenty-first century, the Navy doesn’t shy away from a challenge that will lead to instrumental change.
In July 2012 the world saw the Great Green Fleet in action during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Five carriers and their onboard fighters sported either nuclear power or advanced biofuel blends, 50-50 mixtures of biofuel (made from used cooking oil and algae) and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel.
And fuel isn’t the only concern for the Navy. Those same Green Fleet ships in the RIMPAC exercise used LEDs, or light emitting diodes, to save energy; gas turbine water washing, which washes the compressors while the engine is running to reduce maintenance thus reducing fuel consumption; and used a shipboard energy dashboard providing a real-time assessment of energy usage and recommended actions to reduce fuel and electrical power consumption.
To top the event off, Secretary Mabus met with Rear Admiral Tim Barrett of the Royal Australian Navy to sign a statement of cooperation between the two navies on biofuel research and deployment – making the U.S. Navy initiative a global Navy initiative.
Through its sustainability efforts, America’s carbon footprint isn’t the only one the Navy is concerned with. As with all exercises and trainings, the RIMPAC exercise was dictated by an “At Sea Policy” requiring such events to be reviewed for environmental compliance and potential effects on marine mammals and other marine life. In reducing its ecological footprint, the Navy strives to protect the environment, prevent pollution, and protect natural, historic, and cultural resources.
At shore, the alternative energy initiative is also a top priority. In October 2012, Naval Support Activity Center in Washington, D.C., completed its energy conservation Net Zero demonstration project, publicly debuting a facility with zero energy use on a net annual basis. The building has been retrofitted with new spray-foam and blown-in cellulose insulation, electrochromic windows, LED lighting, and a new geothermal heat-pump HVAC system. In addition, there are new solar panels and micro-wind turbines on the adjacent parking structure that feed into a cutting edge hybrid-gel battery system; designed to power the building in the event of a power failure.
Even getting commuters to work is part of the Navy’s plan. The Transportation Incentive Program (TIP) provides Sailors, Marines and Department of the Navy civilian employees vouchers to purchase monthly public transportation passes, commuter train tickets, or vanpool rides. Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), the Navy’s primary discount provider of everything from groceries to video games is also doing its part. Over 3,800 energy misers have been installed on beverage vending machines reducing energy consumption by a third and the Ship's Store Program is testing an ozone washing machine for use aboard ships in an effort to save energy and cut down on the amount of chemicals used in shipboard laundries.
These and many, many more examples focusing on energy, the environment, and climate change compose the Navy’s conservation agenda. Some benefits are obvious, others are not. While transition takes an environmentally friendly stance, in action it prepares our nation. Sustainability makes America smarter, tougher, more competitive and more resilient.
Naysayers find it costly and a fool’s errand. The same they said of former naval officer President John F. Kennedy whose goal was to reach the moon in a decade when most of the technology required was not even invented. But in his 1962 speech he declared loudly and with great fervor, “Our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others…all require us to make this effort.”
These hardships are the same we face in the race to alternative energy. When announcing the Great Green Fleet, Secretary Mabus too made a comparison to the space race saying, “Bold steps are in our nature as Americans and what make us a great nation; no one has ever gotten anything big done by being timid.”**
So as I address you this Earth Day, I ask that you too join the Global Force for Good in this effort. Recycle, use public transportation when possible, be a role model for your communities by taking that extra step, not for only for yourself, but the good of all. Together, we can build a more sustainable Navy, a more sustainable America, and ultimately, a more sustainable world.