Alternative fuels in America
- By Richard Branson -
- Jun 04, 2012
Disappointing news from America where key committees in both chambers of the Congress voted to halt US military purchases of alternative fuels. America’s Department of Defense had long been making targeted investments in alternative energy, flying some fighter jets and operating some ships on new fuels and partnering with many in the biofuel industry to help wean itself of dependence on fossil fuels.
A few months ago I met with Ray Mabus, America’s Secretary of the Navy. He aims to have America’s fleet run on 50% alternative fuels by 2020. His agenda was just not about green energy, he also saw dependence on oil as a threat to America’s military. This year, oil price fluctuations blew a $3.6 billion hole in the military budget. Imagine what a cutoff, embargo, or conflict would do.
The politicians most criticized Mabus' plan to spend $12 million on algae-based fuels that can blend 50-50 with petroleum. This kind of targeted government investment will help these fuels eventually move to market and compete with long-established fossil fuels. American politicians are killing this relatively small investment even as they continue $2 billion subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. To put it in some perspective, the Pentagon spent around $15 billion (or $41 million per day!) on fuel in 2010, so $12 million was a truly drop in the barrel.
It’s a tragedy that American politicians are willing to throw overboard the smart leadership of Secretary Mabus and others at the Pentagon who want to make the US military and America as a whole more self sufficient in all fuels. Let’s hope they wise up next year.
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group