Renewable Energy Partnership Launched by USDA, Navy

New initiative will enable biofuels to power Navy fleet, spur economic opportunity in rural America.

Published on: Apr 7, 2010
On Tuesday in Hawaii, USDA Undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment Jackalyne Pfannensti started the first of several energy forums that will seek to increase the use of renewable fuels by the Navy and Marine Corps.

"Back in January our bosses, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, signed an agreement that makes our departments not only partners, but leaders in the government's efforts to increase energy production from America's renewable energy sources," Merrigan said. "This isn't just a partnership between two massive departments; it's a partnership with rural
Hawaii, but also with states across the country."

Merrigan went on to say that biofuels are a key strategy, but it's been learned that it's only great if it is approached regionally; what grows well in Iowa may not grow well in Hawaii and the same is true from North Carolina to eastern Oregon. This week's conference in
Honolulu will bring together the producers and processors that will produce the fuel for the Navy.

"We're not just talking about breakthroughs and goals and numbers; we're talking about lives, livelihoods and people; opportunities and possibilities," Merrigan said. "While this agreement will help meet the Navy's energy needs in
Hawaii and move the nation toward a greener, more energy independent 21st Century, it's a step for the region's communities, stimulating economies, reducing energy costs and creating jobs."

Because of its geographic isolation,
Hawaii currently relies on imported oil for 90% of its energy; the state's energy costs are among the highest in the nation. Merrigan pointed to these factors as a reason they are looking to Hawaii as the ideal model for this first collaboration and that what is good for the people of Hawaii is good for the Navy as well.

"As we power a Naval fleet with renewable fuels we'll build an industry right here at home that not only moves us closer to energy independence, but benefits rural areas and puts American's to work in the process," Merrigan said.

Pfannensti called the agreement a very creative partnership and says the meeting in
Hawaii allows the opportunity to start executing the agreement and move toward the results that benefit the entire country.

"Secretary Mabus has set out very ambitious goals for the sailors and marines in the Department of the Navy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels," Pfannensti said. "Biofuels will be a very important part of it. They won't be the only part of it; energy efficiency and other technologies and other ways of using energy will play into it. But biofuels are here now and with the collaboration of the Department of Agriculture we are looking at how to use them."