Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Photo: Christine Luong
This past Thursday, October 28th, in San Francisco, along with excitement for the Giants World Series game, there was also excitement at the Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) summit and celebration as the organization commemorated its10th anniversary. E2 hosted a summit of panels and workshops during the day, and a VIP filled fundraiser/celebration at night. E2 is a national community of independent thinking business leaders who advocate for economically sound environmental policy. E2 works under the umbrella of NRDC and utilizes NRDC's reason based policy expertise. The summit explored current energy and media challenges and highlighted E2s accomplishments over the past years, including its seminal role in passing California's Clean Cars Bill (AB1493). Many topics were covered over the course of the day, from powering the energy systems of the future, to how to get voters to care more about climate change and energy policy. One of the more interesting talks was how the Department of Defense has become one of the strongest proponents of clean energy use in Washington. While Congress has stalled on enacting climate change legislation, the military has been committing money and facilities to develop clean tech opportunities. In particular, the U.S. Navy has been leading the way with clean fuels.
In September 2010, the U.S. Navy ordered 150,000 gallons of ship and jet fuel from Solazyme, a company that is constructing fuel out of algae. "Bioengineered" algae are placed into tanks where they convert the sun's stored energy into oil, which can then be refined into jet fuel or biodiesel. Traditional biofuels have often been criticized for competing with food sources, but Solazyme's algae don't rely on a specific crop to make oil, so a host of different plants can be used which provides flexibility that other biofuels don't have. Solzayme is one of the measures the U.S. military hopes to utilize to achieve its goal of running 50% of its fleet on a mixture of renewable fuels and nuclear power by 2020. This equates to the Navy using 8 million barrels of renewable fuels by 2020.
The military on a whole uses more than 90% of the energy consumed by the federal government. While this may seem like a large amount, the surprising factoid I learned was that the federal government only uses about 2% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Still, finding a cleaner, domestically produced fuel compatible with the current generation of military aircraft and ships is a way to increase energy independence. Fuels made from algae burn cleaner than fossil fuels and require no drilling to acquire. According to the company, Solazyme's diesel fuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 85% versus petroleum diesel.
Currently, only about 1% of the fuels used by the Navy would be considered renewable. 16% of the Navy's energy and fuel needs are achieved through nuclear power, with the rest from traditional sources. So for the Navy to achieve its 50% target, production of renewable fuels will need to increase exponentially.
It was compelling to hear from Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Energy, Installations and Environment) and Jerry Fidler, the chairman of Solzayme discussing their partnership at the summit. The Navy is setting a bold target and trying to get this industry up and running. If we can grow our own fuel, via algae, domestically, or on military bases, we could both displace petroleum use on bases and take steps toward making cleaner fuels more commercially available.
While learning about Solazyme at the summit was educational, E2's evening fundraiser was a festive gala. The E2 10th Anniversary Climate Leadership Award was presented to the surprise guest, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor Schwarzenegger highlighted two of E2's core messages, that climate change is not a partisan issue, and that California must lead the way.
Like the U.S. Navy, California has set aggressive goals to use renewable energy. It is the only state that has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020. Governor Schwarzenegger threatened to push back against special interest groups from other states who are trying to defeat California's signature climate change bill, AB32. He said Congress is "vegetablizing" in DC, and that California needs to be a role model for the rest of the country. This home team spirit was further demonstrated by a brief interruption during the Governor's speech for a Giants' score update.
More on the Navy's environmental efforts
U.S. Navy Wants To Cut Its Petroleum Use, Create "Green Strike" Groups
US Navy to Demonstrate Biofuel-Powered 'Green Strike Force' by 2012