Friday, April 9, 2010

Don’t Bother Preaching to Depts. of Navy, Ag; They’re In the Choir

What came out of the two days of biofuel discussions at Marine Corps Base Hawaii this week was either mana from heaven or too good to be true, depending on your outlook. In short, the U.S. Navy Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture are partners in an effort to encourage creation of a biofuels industry in Hawaii that could be a win for everyone involved – Hawaii agriculture interests and the Navy included.

The big “need” mentioned repeatedly in the two-day forum is a substitute for jet fuel. To say the military burns a lot of it woefully understates the issue. According to Joelle Simonpietri of Pacific Command, 70 percent of the Department of Defense’s energy use in the Pacific is jet fuel, nearly all of which is derived from petroleum that comes from foreign sources.

Jackalyne Pfgannenstiel, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, said national security depends on energy security, so finding biofuel alternatives to jet fuel is a major priority.

The Navy’s goals in its new approach to energy security are five-fold: reform the acquisition process; reduce petroleum use; “Sail the Great Green Fleet,” which translates to greening up the fleet’s fuel supply; increase renewable energy use ashore (to 50 percent by 2020), and increase renewable energy use Navy-wide.

Much was made in the media coverage of the potential for HC&S of Maui to become a major biofuel player, inasmuch it already has a century of expertise in growing cane.

Even as the biofuel forum was underway on Tuesday, solar technology was highlighted at a bidders gathering on a massive photovoltaic RFP at the Marine base. The week was an eventful one for renewable energy advocates in Hawaii and offered more than a little encouragement for good progress in the decade ahead.

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