Power Matters: Energy Security and the US Navy and Marine Corps
April 24, 2014 | Ray Mabus discusses the importance of the global presence of the Navy and Marine Corps in maintaining and promoting energy security. Ray Mabus is the 75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy and leads America's Navy and Marine Corps. He is responsible for conducting the affairs of the Department of the Navy, including recruiting, organizing, equipping, training and mobilizing. Additionally, Sec. Mabus oversees construction and repair of naval ships, aircraft, and facilities, and formulates and implements policies and programs consistent with the national security policies established by the President and the Secretary of Defense.Related Events: Power Matters: Energy Security and the US Navy and Marine Corps
Melnick: I’m Rob Melnick. I want to welcome you today to a Wrigley Lecture sponsored by the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. It is my great privilege to introduce and welcome Secretary Ray Mabus who is a longtime friend of mine and a guy I’ve admired for a very, very long time. I’m going to be brief in my introduction which could go on of course much longer.
Ray has had a very distinguished career in public service, having been the Governor of Mississippi, having been the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and many other things, as well as having been a CEO in the private sector. His current post as Secretary of the Navy makes him responsible, as you can imagine, for a vast amount of activities and overseeing a budget of $170 billion and leadership of almost 900,000 personnel.
Ray has been, as I learned before and just before and I’m noting on these notes, that he has traveled 800,000 miles and over to—and over 100 countries to maintain his relationships with national and international officials and to visit with sailors and marines around the world, including 12 separate visits to Afghanistan. Indeed, Ray has an awesome set of responsibilities.
As a result of the work he’s done, he has been recognized several times for his leadership of the Navy and Marine Corps. In 2013, he was named one of the top 50 highest rated CEOs by Glassdoor in online jobs and career community. Ray was the only leader of a federal agency to receive this award.
It is my great privilege to introduce Ray Mabus who will speak to us. Afterwards, we’ll have some time for questions and answers. Please join me in welcoming Secretary Mabus.
Sec. Mabus: Thanks, Rob Melnick, for that introduction. We have known each other for way longer than either one of us care to admit. I do have to say the hospitality here is better at Arizona State than the last time I had dealings with Arizona State, which was at the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy.
If y’all hadn’t had bigger, stronger, faster, better football players, we would have been in that game.
It’s a real honor for me to be here at Arizona State to discuss a current global situation, energy sustainability, and do it all from a maritime perspective. I was thinking about what I was going to say here today, and I was reminded of what one Asian Chief of Navy told me about the difference between soldiers and sailors. He said that soldiers of every country always focus on the ground. They see nothing but boundaries, which in a way is the past.
Sailors, on the other hand, no matter where they’re from, look out over the ocean and see nothing but the horizon, nothing but the future. Our future is clearly a maritime one. Because over that horizon travels most of the world’s commerce. We live in a globalized economy, the most globalized in the history of mankind.
Today, more than 90 percent of all trade moves by sea. More than 90 percent of all international data doesn’t go by satellite; it goes by undersea cables. Eight out of every ten people on earth live within 40 miles of a coast, and that’s a critical fact to remember as sea levels rise around the globe. Clearly [phone rings], freedom of the seas and freedom of navigation—you’re going to have to call them back—
—are vital to our global economy and to global security. It’s no coincidence that global trade, the global economy and global prosperity have risen dramatically since the end of World War II, a period in which maritime security and open sea lanes for every nation engaged in peaceful trade have been maintained by the presence of the United States Navy.
Unfortunately, increased globalization has also meant increased risk of maritime terrorism, illegal movement of drugs and weapons and people, and the dangers of modern piracy. These challenges of maritime crime and the threats from both state and non-state actors are complex, they’re dynamic, and they’re intertwined. It’s clear that for the next decade and beyond our greatest opportunity for global economic advancement and many of our greatest challenges to global security will involve the maritime domain, making naval forces more important than ever.
Because, uniquely, naval forces offer the capability to provide presence, which really means just being in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time. Presence helps deter potential conflicts, and it avoids escalating the situation when tensions do start to rise. Naval presence is persistent, meaning we can stay a long time, and we don’t take up one inch of anybody else’s soil, so we don’t infringe on any country’s sovereignty.
As a result, naval presence uniquely offers leaders, the President, a wide range of options from supporting diplomacy to providing for much stronger measures. As my favorite recruiting poster for the Navy says, "Sometimes we follow the storm. Sometimes we are the storm." As the Secretary of the Navy, I’m responsible for two of our military service, the Navy and the Marine Corps. Together, marines and sailors form a Navy team that is unique in how we accomplish our job.
Because unlike garrison forces, and garrison forces are folks that, when conflicts are over, come back to their home base and they stay there until they’re needed again. Unlike those forces, we are constantly deployed in times of peace and in times of conflict to maintain that presence around the world. There are no permanent homecomings for sailors and marines. They almost always do their jobs far from home, far from family and far from us.
Our founding fathers clearly saw the importance of naval forces, enshrining the need for our navy in The Constitution. While Congress has the power to raise an army, it is explicitly instructed to maintain a navy. The Constitution’s authors knew that for the United States to be a player on the world stage we required a force that could protect our commerce and our national interest, both near our shores and around the globe, we had to have presence around the world. That global presence, that global reach, that global necessity continues today.
Now, from my very distinctive vantage point overseeing our two services, I think there are four things that make the presence possible: people, platforms, power and partnerships. These have been my priorities since I took office almost five years ago. Today, I want to focus on the third of those priorities, power, and explain why energy is so very important to everything that we do.
Actually, I’ve never quite understood why people would be surprised that the Secretary of the Navy is so concerned about energy because it seems pretty obvious to me. After all, it was the Navy that switched its source of power from sail to steam in the 19th century, from steam to oil in the beginning of the 20th century, and pioneered nuclear power as a propulsion source in the middle of the 20th century.
By the way, every single time—every single time—we made one of those dramatic changes in energy, there were naysayers who spoke and worked against that change, and every single time they were wrong. They were on the wrong side of history. Five years ago, shortly after I took office, I began to talk about power and have continued talking and writing and acting on this ever since. It’s clearly a major and pivotal issue in a lot of ways.
Every time we fill up our car with gas, we are pretty painfully reminded of the economic implications of energy, but my concern, which I’ve raised I hope in speeches and articles and countless discussions, is also about the national and international security implications, the critical geopolitical role of energy. As a security challenge, access to energy and to fuel can be a diplomatic pressure point and can be, has been and is used as a geostrategic weapon.
Consider, for example, the following: Nearly 40 percent of the natural gas and a third of the oil that Europe consumes comes from Russia, and over the half of the gas that the Ukraine uses comes from that same source. The world’s energy infrastructure also offers targets for the maritime instability that I talked about earlier. At the request of the Libyan government, our Navy SEALs recently boarded and took control of a tanker in the Mediterranean that was full of stolen oil.
Every month we hear reports of oil piracy and energy theft in the Gulf of Guinea of the west coast of Africa. Shrinking Arctic ice is opening up new sea lanes at the top of our planet and new potential areas for resource exploration and new potential areas for friction. Even with domestic oil production up, even with imports declining, and even with new oil and gas reserves being discovered, energy remains a security and economic concern for the United States.
Because even if we were able to produce every single drop of oil and gas that we needed domestically, we can’t control the price. Oil is the ultimate global commodity. It’s usually and often traded on speculation and rumor. As an example, in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Syria last summer, oil prices surged over $107.00 a barrel and remained there for weeks. It’s what security traders call—it’s what oil traders call a security premium.
When a crisis anywhere in the world occurs—just look at Egypt or Libya or anywhere—the price of oil spikes. Just last week, Bloomberg News reported the crisis in the Ukraine was creating uncertainty. That’s a word that always drives up prices for commodities like oil. Every $1.00 increase, every $1.00 in the price of a barrel of oil costs the Navy $30 million in increased fuel cost.
Now, this has huge implications across the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense and huge implications for our security. The Department of Defense is the largest single institutional consumer of fossil fuels on earth, and we spend about $15 billion. Well, we budget about $15 billion every year for fuel. In the last two fiscal years that we have complete numbers for, 2011 and 2012, price spikes added another $3 billion in unbudgeted fuel price increases to the DOD fuel bill.
Now, the bills from that so-called security premium can mean that we have fewer resources for operations, for training, and if the bill gets too high, we’ll have fewer platforms, so fewer ships, fewer aircraft. In addition, the cost of meeting our high fuel demand could also be measured in the lives of those guarding fuel convoys. During the height of operations in Afghanistan, we were losing a marine, killed or wounded, for every 50 convoys of fuel that we brought into there. That is too high a price to pay.
For all those reasons, in October of 2009, I announced five energy goals for the Department of the Navy in order to improve our energy security, increase our strategic independence, increase our sustainability, and advance our operational capabilities. The top goal commits the Department of the Navy to generate at least half of all its energy needs, afloat and ashore, from non-fossil fuel sources by no later than 2020. We are going to meet these goals.
We’re going to meet them through a number of programs, including a variety of alternative fuel initiatives and also through greater energy efficiency. It’ll make us better at our jobs, better warfighters. It will make us and the world far, far more secure. Those fuel convoy statistics are one reason that the Marines have been some of the most aggressive leaders in sustainable energy over the past few years.
Now, when you think of marines, you probably don’t think of ardent environmentalists, but, as always, marines are leading the way in proving that renewable energy, so making the energy where you are, increases combat effectiveness. This was proven in actual combat in Afghanistan. Using their Experimental Forward Operating Base program, or ExFOB, they’ve developed alternative energy sources from the private sector that help reduce their dependence on those fuel convoys and on traditional sources of energy like diesel fuel and batteries.
In the fall of 2010, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines deployed the Sangin in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. At that time, Sangin was a center of a very, very tough fight, but 3/5 Marines took some items from this ExFOB process and they saw a pretty dramatic impact. A foot patrol using small light packable solar panels, so they could use them to power their radios, their GPSs instead of batteries, could go for three weeks without a resupply of batteries, instead of having to be resupplied every few days.
Also, one company of 3/5 shed 700 pounds of batteries that they didn’t have to lug around Afghanistan. It made them more agile, increased their potential range, but it also made a dramatic cut in the need for those resupply convoys and a cut in marine casualties guarding those convoys. In actuality, alternative energy saves lives. Once they tested the equipment and they test it in the ultimate way, in combat, we turned it around and we put it into production.
Today, it’s a standard part of every marine’s equipment. Entire battalions are equipped with these new energy technologies, like solar and LED lights for their tents and solar generators, at forward operating bases. From infantry units to sniper teams to special ops, this equipment is now being used by us all over the world. Alternative energy makes marines better warriors.
Every two years we have the biggest naval exercise in the world, the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC. The last time we had one in the summer of 2012, the entire Nimitz Strike Group, everything from surface ships to every type of aircraft that took off from Nimitz were flying and steaming on a 50/50 blend of biofuels and jet fuel or marine diesel. We called it the Great Green Fleet. It was almost exactly 100 years after the Great White Fleet.
Now, the big news—the big news—out of that exercise was there was no news. We bought biofuels, we put it in our normal logistics chain, we got it to Hawaii, we put it on a supply ship, we took it to sea. We didn’t change a single engine in a single aircraft or ship. We didn’t change a single setting on an engine. It was absolutely seamless, absolutely transparent. The engines, the aircrafts, the ships couldn’t tell the difference.
That’s one of the keys. Only the source of fuel should change. Whatever replaces fossil fuels has to be for our ships and our aircraft a drop-in fuel. Nothing changes in any engine. That’s because we have almost all of the fleet either at sea today or being built that we’re going to have in 2020, and we have most of the aircraft that we’re going to have in 2020.
To change those engines to accommodate other fuels, like liquid natural gas, would be astronomically, prohibitively expensive, so new, more sustainable energy sources are critical. Also, being better about how we use fuel is important too. Doing the same missions, the same things; just using less fuel.
Our newest big-deck amphibious ship, the USS Makin Island, is a great example. Now, big-deck amphibs are 40,000-ton ships. Only carriers are larger. They carry 3,000 sailors and marines. They have a MEU, a Marine Expeditionary Unit, complete with their helicopters, their harriers, their V-22s, their landing craft and all the other equipment that marines need for amphibious operations.
Makin Island is unique. It has a hybrid propulsion system. Tom Friedman wrote a column that he called it the Prius of the Seas. It’s got an electric power plant for speeds under 12 knots and normal diesel for speeds over 12 knots. When Makin Island went on deployment in 2012, it took with it a $33 million fuel budget. That’s normally what her sister big-deck amphibs would spend during the seven or eight months they were going to be at sea.
Between these new systems and the energy awareness training and the conservation methods led by the crew, Makin Island only spent $18 million. They saved nearly half of their fuel budget in one deployment. It just isn’t at sea or in combat that we’re applying the lessons. We’re learning in sustainability.
The Department of the Navy also has 118,000 buildings. We have 500 million square feet of space at bases across the U.S. and around the world. For a seagoing service, we’re on land too. We’re using solar and wind, geothermal programs on many of those bases. They’re already producing electricity today. We’re exploring new technologies like fuel cells, hydrothermal and wave generation. We’re working with pioneers on technologies like smart grids and micro grids.
Here in Arizona, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, where I’m going next, we started installing solar panels as early as 2009. Now, all of this is what we’ve done so far, so let me talk for a minute about where we’re headed in the future. Let’s take a look over that horizon. Under a directive from the President, the Department of the Navy is working with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to help promote a national biofuel industry.
What we bring to the table is the authority under Title III of the Defense Production Act, the DPA. We took an important step forward with a DPA award last year to four biofuel companies that have committed to produce 160 million gallons a year of drop-in militarily compatible biofuels at an average price below $3.50 a gallon. Now, that price is absolutely competitive of what we’re paying today for conventional fuels.
Fuel production, just this amount of biofuels, combined at a 50/50 blend with conventional fuels holds the promise of being able to cost-effectively provide our fleet with 25 percent of its annual fuel demand, providing real competition in the liquid fuel market, competition that has not been there before. We also continue to develop our energy efficiency through some R&D of more efficient propulsion systems, our shore-based power management technologies, and conservation measures.
At our joint base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, we’ve recently put in place programs that increasing efficiency and driving down fuel consumption despite increases in the number of people and increases in electrical demand. From Hawaii to Virginia and bases in the heart of our country, like Yuma, we’re rolling out more alternative power and more efficiency programs. At sea, our next two big-deck amphibs are the USS America, which we’ll commission later this year, and USS Tripoli, which will have the keel laying this summer.
I’m going to do a little aside here. I get to do a lot of cool things in this job. It’s amazing how many cool things I get to do. I get to name every ship that the Navy puts under contract and I get to name the sponsor of that ship. USS Tripoli is particularly important to me. The shores of Tripoli, so from Tripoli to Tripoli, 200 years of marine history is represented, and I happen to married to the sponsor of Tripoli.
That keel laying and that ship, which will join the fleet in about 2017, are particularly important to me. Both those ships, America and Tripoli, will have hybrid drives like Makin Island. The USS Zumwalt, named after Elmo Zumwalt, the CNO when I was in the Navy 40 years ago, is our newest, our biggest destroyer, which we christened in Bath, Maine two weeks ago. It’s got an all-electric propulsion system, and we’re looking hybrid systems for our future Aegis destroyers.
Now, the Navy has had a long and very successful history of partnering with industry to promote business sectors, products important to our nation’s military and economic security. From the development of the American steel industry more than 100 years ago to nuclear power, the Navy has helped the country develop economically while helping sailors benefit from the cutting edge technologies to defend our country.
These programs that we’re talking about, about diversifying fuel supplies, stabilizing fuel costs, and reducing overall needs, fits right in. We also have a long tradition of cutting edge research. We do some of it ourselves and some in partnerships with academic institutions. Scientists and engineers here at Arizona State University are helping Navy sail toward that next horizon of innovation through some very innovative, very cutting edge, very forward looking research and development.
Because power and energy are absolutely global issues, both in international security and an economic challenge, we’re not the only ones working on this. We’re not the only ones who realize the importance of developing alternative fuels and being more efficient in the energy that we do use. Our friends and our allies around the world are exploring similar projects to increase their combat effectiveness and strategic flexibility.
Three weeks ago, I was Italy, where we signed a statement of cooperation with the Italian Navy to work together on biofuel development and biofuel integration. When the Great Green Fleet sailed at RIMPAC, the Australian Navy was there with us during the exercise. The Australian fleet commander flew one of his helicopters over and landed on Nimitz where that helicopter was refueled with biofuels.
He and I signed an agreement to cooperate on the development of biofuels and on research and sharing information. When he was asked by the press whether he was committed to the program, he said, "Well, I’m about to get on that helicopter, so I would say yes."
The British Army partnered with our marines in Afghanistan using that alternative energy ExFOB equipment. Sustainability for our military forces isn’t just an American concern. Our allies are just as concerned and just as interested as we are, so sustainability is a global issue.
Earlier, I noted how dependent Europe is on supplies of oil and gas from Russia, and it works both ways. Obviously, Europe is a large customer for Russia, but Russia depends on oil and gas revenues for over half its government’s budget. Imagine the impact alternative power, conservation measures might have.
Now, we’re a long way down the road from where we were five years ago when I set these Navy goals. Now, not doing this, not doing this because it’s not instant or because it’s not the way it’s always been done or because there’s opposition aren’t reasons for inaction. They’re just excuses. By setting and achieving these energy goals, we’re going to maximize our reach.
We’re going to maintain that global presence that’s so necessary, and we’re going to make our marines and our sailors more combat capable. In short, we as a navy and we as a nation will have an edge. We will be stronger. We will be less vulnerable as a navy and as a nation.
From the Navy, Semper Fortis; always courageous. From the Marine Corps, Semper Fidelis; always faithful. Thank y’all very much.
Facilitator: Our first question will come from School of Sustainability student, Andrew Lane. Andrew?
Sec. Mabus: Hey, Andrew. Andrew.
Lane: Yes, sir.
Sec. Mabus: Come up here a minute.
Lane: Yes, sir.
Sec. Mabus: I have a tradition. I do all-hands calls, and even though you’re not—doesn’t look like a sailor or marine—
—I give a coin to the first question.
Lane: Thank you, sir.
Thank you, sir, and thank you, Lauren, for allowing me this first question. They promised I have to be brief because I can be a bit long-winded.
Sec. Mabus: [Chuckles] Me too.
Lane: Sir, if it makes you feel any better, I was a marine for about three years in the Marine Reserve. I tried to commission—and the Marines even tell me sometimes today that the Marine Corps does a bad job of taking enlisted marines and turning them to officer marines, but hey. I switched services. I’m still here fighting the good fight. We’re on the same team. I-I—
Sec. Mabus: Once a marine, always a marine.
Lane: Yes, sir.
Your story of the Tripoli brought to tears to my eyes for Hymn of the Marines. My question, sir, is: I transferred here to come to grad school, Arizona State University, for sustainability. I’ve already earned the Army Graduate Certificate of Sustainability that Arizona State made online. Each unit I get to, I’m in the Army Reserve now, I find it difficult, even though I drill about 30 miles to the west in Buckeye which is 91 percent powered by solar panels on the roof of those structures, people still want to debate me on climate change.
Even though I tell them every day, every time I see them, you can come visit, hear the Secretary of the Navy today. You can listen to the President. You can listen to a lot of folks in our leadership, but how can we—and I hate to say, "Death by PowerPoint," because I know the sailors and the cadets probably hate to sit through training just like we hate to sit through training for sexual harassment or whatnot, but it seems as though there’s a disconnect.
Because even my battalion commanders a few months ago at a commanders’ update brief talked about how great it was that we’re selling coal to China, which as you and I know, if that coal is burned anywhere on this planet, even Antarctica, it’s going to cause us issues. How—perhaps—and I know now I’m in the Army, Navy, but still there’s a way that we can get this word out from the top down and then—there’s enlisted marines here too to make sure that folks can go from the bottom up and meet each other halfway because in this race everybody wins.
Sec. Mabus: That’s a great question, and I appreciate it. One of the things that I was concerned about is the biggest change you have to make is a cultural change because, as I said, every time the Navy has switched energy sources, there have been people that have fought it tooth and nail. One of my predecessors—I’m the 75th Secretary of the Navy. One of my predecessors in the 1830s, when the move was being made to coal, said that he would not turn our fleet into fire-belching monsters, and he pointed out that the wind was free; coal was not.
When we moved from coal to oil, we had all these coaling stations around the world. People were saying, "You’ve invested all this money in this infrastructure. How can you do this? How can you just walk away from it?" Then when we pioneered nuclear in the ‘40s and ‘50s, people said, number one, you can never make it small enough to fit on a submarine and, number two, it’s going to be dangerous. It’s going to be really dangerous and it’s not going to work. Every single time they were wrong.
You get to these tipping points, these inflection points. Because systems don’t change gradually over time. They change just like that. You can read about it in chaos theory. You can read about it in a book called The Tipping Point. I think we’re about there on alternative energy, but the way in the Navy and the Marine Corps that the word has gotten out is some of the examples I used. Marines know that they’re better fighters when they produce their energy where they are. They’re not losing marines guarding these convoys.
First time I landed at Camp Leatherneck, which is our big marine base in Helmand, the thing that struck me almost instantly was driving by just row after row after row of huge generators. A SEAL team commander, we’ve got SEAL teams now; they’re getting close to net zero in terms of energy and water, so they can stay out for a long time. He said, "Turning off the generator is like taking a target off of you." He said, "And we could hear. Suddenly we could hear when people were trying to sneak up on us."
I talked about the Makin Island. I went onboard Makin Island in the Arabian Gulf. The engineering officer there said, "Look, this hybrid drive is great and it’s saving us a lot of money." He said, "But the main thing that it’s doing is I’ve got sailors, I’ve got third class petty officers coming up and saying, ‘Hey, I had an idea how we can save some energy.’" That was what’s driving it down.
Just by replacing light bulbs on our ships; LED bulbs saves one or two percent of the total energy of that ship. By doing different haul coatings, another percent or two. By putting stern flaps behind propellers, another two or three percent. By doing voyage planning instead of just saying, "Go from San Diego to Honolulu or Pearl," pay attention to the prevailing tides and the winds. That saves you another couple percent.
Well, pretty soon, you’re saving a whole lot of energy, and pretty soon, you’re staying out longer, and pretty soon, you’re less vulnerable because the most vulnerable time for a navy ship is when you’re being refueled. That’s when the Cole was attacked in Aden. The culture change we’re seeing happen inside the Navy and the Marine Corps, and I think you’re seeing it across the country too.
We’ve got a thing called Task Force Climate Change because it is increasing our responsibilities. As the climate changes, as sea levels rise, that 80 percent of the world’s population that lives within 40 miles of the coast, as sea levels rise, instability follows and our responsibilities get greater. Two weeks ago—two weeks ago right now, I was in the very high north in the Arctic. I was shown just in the last six or seven years, there was a fjord that was out in front of the place we were. It hadn’t frozen in the last four or five years.
It has changed dramatically. Suddenly, no seals come, so no polar bears are around. Suddenly, fish that were much further south are now further north. Suddenly, the Arctic is opened up for cruise ships, and a lot of times they don’t know what they’re doing. The captains don’t because they’ve never been there for. They don’t understand that—they evidently didn’t watch the movie Titanic.
They don’t understand what icebergs can do to you. You’ve also got the Northwest Passage opening up in the summertime. We’re looking at an ice-free Arctic in the summer within the next two decades at current rates. It’s happening whether we want to believe it or not, and it’s going to have a major impact, particularly on our military and particularly on our responsibilities and on the world’s stability.
Our naval bases, duh, are mostly on the sea. As sea levels rise, we’ve got to be concerned about that. That was a very longwinded answer to actually a pretty concise question, but I think the thing you do is just keep pushing, just keep showing folks. The Army you talked about—the Army’s breaking ground this week on the largest solar panel installation in the United States. It’s not a competition. We are all in the same fight, and I’m proud of them for doing that.
We’re going to produce a gigawatt of electricity, enough to power a city the size of Orlando on our bases by no later than 2020 from renewable energy. We’re looking at how to hook our bases together in micro grids so that you can use the alternative energy from one base at another one when there’s peak demand so that you can pull military bases off the grid when you have to in case the grid goes down and we still need to do our military mission.
I’ll end by quoting—I was Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, as Rob said. A former Saudi Oil Minister, Zaki Yamani, very famously said, "The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran outta stones. It ended because we invented something better." That’s what I think you’re seeing happening now with alternative energy.
Facilitator: The next question comes from David Lucier, who’s a former Green Beret and President of the Arizona Veterans and Military Leadership Alliance.
Lucier: Thank you. Welcome to Tempe, Arizona and the home of the Sun Devils, Arizona State University. My dad was a lieutenant commander on the USS Saufley, DD 465, in World War II, and during his two years on that ship in the South Pacific, his XO was Admiral Zumwalt. I had a cousin that used to fly off the Kitty Hawk till he got shot down, but he was fortunately rescued.
One of the things you talked about obviously was power, but you also mentioned partnership and briefly touched upon the partnership with Arizona State University. Could you give us a little hint as to what the Navy may be doing as far as training their personnel that they may take their expertise and the training that they used into the civilian world as most of those folks are going to transition into the civilian world? Is there anything that you see or programs that you’ve initiated that would help advance that type of process?
Sec. Mabus: Well, I hope so. I’ll start from the smallest and go to the largest. We now have a degree granting program at the Navy Postgraduate School in energy so that people get masters in alternative energy and how it’s used, how it’s developed and that kind of R&D. NPS, Naval Postgraduate School, is a great academic institution. They also have shorter courses for leaders so they can go out and do about eight weeks just on intensive looks at energy.
We’re also doing it fleet wide. We not only have training programs, but we also have competitions. I give awards to small ships, large ships, small bases, large bases, aircraft squadron for energy, either efficiency or innovation. Those are very avidly sought.
The partnership that we have with places like Arizona State ranges all the way from doing this cutting edge research. I had a brief meeting with some scientists and engineers from here, and we have—I mean I’m an English major, so we have folks that actually know what they’re doing in these things, but they’re going to—we have a close working relationship with them.
Arizona State’s one of two universities that established a Navy ROTC program under my watch. Rutgers was the other. We did bring it back to some schools; smaller, independent schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, for people who couldn’t get into Ole Miss or Arizona State.
I think we’re working on a—and I hope and I believe that we’re working on a wide range of things, so that as people transition out—and the final thing I’ll say is we have transition programs for both sailors and marines. We start these a good while before they separate, so whether you’ve spent 40 years or 4 in the military, we’ve got a transition program.
There are different tracks you can take. One is further education. One is career oriented, so take the training you’ve used. One is entrepreneurship. If you’ve got—you’ve got this amazing training, particularly in leadership. If you want to go out and do something on your own, we’re going to help you know how to do it.
One final factoid: Of the Fortune 500 companies, 163 have CEOs that are marines, so [chuckling] that’s not bad. They teach leadership.
Audience: Anybody here, when your young men and women leave the services, we’d like them to come to Arizona and preferably the Arizona State University, they can get immediate in-state tuition which is covered by their GI bill. We’d encourage you to encourage them to come to our state and our university. Thank you very much.
Sec. Mabus: Thank you.
Carr-Kelman: Thank you, Secretary Mabus, for coming to visit us at the Global Institute of Sustainability. I’m Candice Carr-Kelman. I’m the Assistant Director of the School of Sustainability. My question is about technologies. I’m wondering what technologies are being prioritized.
My understanding is that the Great Green Fleet ran on that 50 percent algae mix. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m wondering what technologies are being prioritized in the partnership with the Department of Agriculture.
Sec. Mabus: Well, I’m pretty technology [pause]. What I have focused on is result. I’m technology neutral in terms of what happens. You’re right. The Great Green Fleet was part algae, part used cooking oil that did it. The four biofuel companies that we have each has a different feedstock: used cooking oil, animal byproducts, agricultural waste, and I think algae for the fourth one.
Whatever makes us—in terms of the biofuels, whatever gives us militarily compatible, cost competitive, and the only requirements we have is it’s got to be drop-in, no land outta food production, cost competitive and it drops our carbon footprint. One of the reasons that we are working with places like Arizona State is what are the new technologies that are coming. Because algae’s third generation, stuff like used cooking oil, agricultural waste second generation. What’s coming next on the biofuels side?
We’re there on technology now. We’re there cost wise; we’re there in terms of the technical aspects on this generation, but there’s a lot more that can be done. The reason we do it on a 50/50 blend right now is that biofuels don’t have quite the lubricating properties, and that’s a science project. You can solve that.
I’d be just as happy with 100 percent as long as it meets some of those lubricating requirements. When I was talking to your engineers earlier, they said seals have a problem with some of these biofuels. At first, I thought about Navy SEALs.
Then I thought about seals that swim in the ocean, and I’m thinking what kind of seals have a problem with…and then I thought, oh, yeah, seals in engines [laughter]. I told you I was an English major.
Audience: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. We do a lot of work on getting messages out of the work that a lot of people do with clean energy and energy efficiency and good land use. When I’ve made documentaries that have talked about the Department of Defense, I’m amazed at how few Americans know what’s going on. Then when I take it to Europe, it’s zero.
The work you’re doing’s amazing. The work you’re doing is cutting edge. What are you all doing about getting the story out? If we can help, we’d love to.
Sec. Mabus: Well, we’re trying every which way to get the story out. I mean I’m here talking about it. I talk about it everywhere I go. I’ve written articles that’ve been published in foreign policy in a variety of periodicals online and regular print. We got a couple reporters here today, one from Slate, one from the Arizona Republic. It is hard. It’s not easy.
Part of it is that notion that systems just don’t change gradually. Part of it is that people generally see things as they are, not as they are about to be. It’s 2014. I went to Saudi in 1994. Nobody had a cell phone when I went. Came back a couple years later; everybody had a cell phone. Nobody had the Internet, or the Internet was very slow. Came back ten years ago; nobody had a smartphone.
Things change. Technologies change. You listen to news programs and pundits and things like that; they almost always are looking backwards or they’re looking at the horse race. Who’s winning? Who’s losing? Not exactly on what’s getting done. I’ll tell you. The Navy is big enough to change a market. We use enough fuel to change a market, to bring a market. That’s what agriculture and the Department of Energy and we are doing together.
In a little more complete answer to your question, with the Department of Agriculture, we’ve got something called Farm to Fleet, which is taking farm products, their research, and buying the stuff to use as fuel, and as a transitional thing, using commodity credit corporation dollars, so if there’s a premium for the agricultural products because there’s just not enough of it, there’s not enough scale, they will make it up, so DOD pays a low price for it.
We’ve got a great partner in Tom Vilsack and the Department of Agriculture. It offers American farmers another income stream. Farmers plow down their wheat stalks and their corn stalks. When you cut trees, you leave the tops and the limbs in the woods. All of a sudden, that’s a profit center instead of an expense. Anyway, it’s hard. We need help. We need all the help that we can get.
I go around the world doing this. I mean militaries get it. Heads of state pretty much get it. People that have had energy used against them or fear that get it. Change is always hard. I learned that as governor [chuckles]. I learned that as ambassador, and I’m getting a graduate degree in it here.
It’s also not for the—it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s not for the weak of spirit or of endurance. If you keep pushing long enough, that change just happens. Keep making the docs.
Audience: This is just a small question, but when you said the Navy started using biofuels and saved 25 percent or 50 percent of their budget, but that wasn’t news because the engines and equipment didn’t change, why wasn’t it news?
Sec. Mabus: No. No, no. We didn’t save—the part that wasn’t news was we didn’t have to change anything. That was the part that wasn’t news. I did a bad job in my speech. The second part of that is now we have commitments that we can buy up to—just with these four biofuel companies, 160 million gallons starting in 2016. That will produce 25 percent of all the fuel we use at sea. Just from those four, so we’re creating that market. That was what I said.
That is very cost competitive. First biofuels we bought five years ago cost several hundred dollars a gallon because nobody was buying it. It was all experimental. They were having to be made in very small batches. We flew the first aircraft on a camelina seed blend, which is a mustard family seed. The Navy flies hornets; we called it the green hornet. Those biofuels were very expensive.
As we buy more, the cost has been coming down dramatically. One of the attacks on it is, well, it’s not cost competitive. Well, it’s not—you’re paying too much. You’re paying a premium to do this. Now, with these biofuels less than $3.50 a gallon; that’s very, very cost competitive.
Same thing is happening on land. Price of solar is plummeting. Price of wind is plummeting. The Navy used a lot of its economic stimulus money to put in smart meters at our bases so that we know where our energy use is and we can do something about it. The price is becoming—it’s not becoming, it is competitive now. That is no longer an argument I guess.
Melnick: As the Secretary mentioned earlier, he has to go to the Yuma Naval and Marine Base, so I want to first thank the advance team for working with us and for coordinating this. The Secretary’s schedule is incredibly busy. Ray, thank you so much for this opportunity to listen. I was fascinated by your remarks. Please join me in thanking the Secretary.