The Planet

Here’s How the Navy Is Powering a Fleet With Beef Fat

by Bo Suh

January 22, 2016
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Navy debuted its “Great Green Fleet”a group of ships fueled by a mixture of petroleum and beef faton Wednesday, signaling a foray into a future less dependent on fossil fuels.

The fleet, which is scheduled to depart from San Diego next week, consists of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and three escort shipsthe first to operate regularly on a biofuel-containing concoction, reports the Associated Press. For now, the mixture is only 10 percent beef fat and 90 percent petroleum because of the high cost of incorporating the fat. Eventually, the Navy aims to use a 50-50 ratio and plans to explore other sources of biofuel, including landfill, wood chips, and even food waste, says Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The Navy recognizes its need to reduce its carbon footprint—the service is responsible for a third of the energy used by the Department of Defense, which is the largest energy consumer in the world. But its motives are also economic and political.

“It gives us a strategic advantage,” Mabus told AP, referring to the United States’ reliance on oil exports from foreign countries that are not necessarily sympathetic to the American government or military. Alternative energy also provides an escape from the fluctuating prices of oil.

How eco-friendly the Green Fleet actually is remains up for debate. Even though it’s a good thing to rely less on fossil fuels, the meat industry itself contributes roughly 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and environmentalists worry that biofuel production would require a harmful amount of land, fertilizer, and fuel.

But Mabus asserted that no land designated for food production would be used to cultivate biofuel. And this achievement is not the end; the Navy plans to continue developing more sustainable technology and reducing its consumption of natural resources in the future.

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Here’s How the Navy Is Powering a Fleet With Beef Fat