Best Defense
Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

More on the Navy’s green Hornets

By Will Rogers Best Defense military fuels correspondent While the Navy has long been a forward leaner in promoting environmental stewardship, today’s test flight of a biofuel blend in its F/A-18 Super Hornet is all about promoting national security. At CNAS we have spent a great deal of time studying energy security and speaking to ...

Thomas Duchnicki :: Location Scout/flickr
Thomas Duchnicki :: Location Scout/flickr
Thomas Duchnicki :: Location Scout/flickr

By Will Rogers
Best Defense military fuels correspondent

By Will Rogers
Best Defense military fuels correspondent

While the Navy has long been a forward leaner in promoting environmental stewardship, today’s test flight of a biofuel blend in its F/A-18 Super Hornet is all about promoting national security. At CNAS we have spent a great deal of time studying energy security and speaking to officers from the Navy, the Air Force, the Army and the Marine Corps who are acutely aware that energy security and national security are inextricably linked. The U.S. military is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. And its outsized dependence on energy means that the military cannot get its mission done without access to fuel. The Navy’s efforts to diversify which fuels it uses in its aircraft means that it’s attempting to reduce its vulnerability to fuel supply disruptions, price spikes and the consequences of energy use — whether that’s in how the global oil trade affects geopolitical considerations or the emissions contributing to climate change. Also note that the Air Force just tested a 50/50 biofuel blend in both engines of an A10-C Thunderbolt II, largely aimed at the same goal of diversify which fuels it has to rely on — seeing as it depends on three times as much fuel as the Navy to conduct its missions.

At the same time, the Navy is looking at fuel options that may reduce its carbon emissions and its contributions to global climate change. Indeed, the Navy is gaining a better understanding of how climate change may affects its facilities, capabilities and missions — with observable changes in a melting Arctic. Its investment in alternative, greener fuels is not to achieve environmental ends, per se. Those are a happy and welcome coincidence, but the bottom line for the Navy is that it needs to do what it can to ensure its capability to provide for America’s defense and be a global force for good. It is clear that global change in all aspects of our energy systems and environment are affecting U.S. security, and I think it’s great that the Navy (and DOD broadly) is thinking about how to secure the nation in the face of these long-term trends.

We’ll have a big report out on this soon.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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