The effort will encourage development and use of renewable energy, and enable biofuels to power the US navy fleet and spur economic opportunity in rural America, according to Kathleen Merrigan of USDA and Jackalyne Pfannenstiel of the Navy.

The two groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January to encourage development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.

“As we continue to expand efforts to build a clean energy economy, create new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we can use the Navy's fleet as a catalyst to increase demand for biofuels and spur economic opportunity in rural communities throughout the country,” explains Merrigan.

“President Obama has an ambitious renewable energy agenda, and the USDA / Navy partnership we are highlighting today is a critical step to enhance America's energy security.”

“This collaborative effort will enable us to reduce our petroleum consumption and increase our alternative energy opportunities,” adds Pfannenstiel. “The Navy and Marine Corps' warfighting capability will benefit through a more secure energy future.”

Strategically, the objective of the renewable energy pus is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels from volatile areas of the world. Tactically, the costs of transporting petrol on the battlefield can reach US$400/gallon.

Navy has five targets

The Navy has set five targets for its Navy and Marine Corps, with biofuels identified as a major component of four of those goals:

  1. When awarding contracts, consider energy efficiency and the energy footprint as additional factors in acquisition decisions;
  2. By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel. By 2016, that Group should include surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel;
  3. By 2015, reduce petroleum use in its 50,000 non-tactical vehicle commercial fleet in half, by phasing in hybrid, flex fuel and electric vehicles;
  4. By 2020, produce at least half of shore based installations' energy requirements from alternative and renewable sources; 50% of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers; and
  5. By 2020, half of the Navy’s total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative and renewable energy sources.

The departments will work to support President Obama's initiative to make the United States a global leader in developing a renewable energy economy, reducing energy consumption derived from fossil fuels, and increasing energy production from renewable energy sources.

The MoU “formed a partnership that builds on each of the two departments independent strengths,” says Pfannenstiel. “Additionally, it brings together our mutual experiences in renewable energy and biofuels development.”