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By   /   Thursday, October 29th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Navy

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When Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus came to Santa Barbara to speak before the regional chapter of the Navy League, not many people had heard of the “Green Fleet.”

And, indeed, there is a fair amount of public relations value involved — just as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet” which sailed the Pacific at the dawn of the 20th Century was largely an exercise in image-making.

But during his short visit to the region on Oct. 22, Mabus made it clear that he has two goals when it comes to energy efficiency. The first is greening the fleet sufficiently so that it gets half the energy for ships and vehicles from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020. Mabus also wants to send a “Great Green Fleet,” an aircraft carrier group largely propelled by non-fossil fuel sources, into the Pacific later this decade.

The idea of the United States fielding an aircraft carrier group that is liberated from the need for fossil fuels is kind of mind boggling. But it shows how far the Pentagon has come in rethinking the role of energy and sources of energy in the future defense of the country.

The Navy has one particular advantage in thinking about a future without fossil fuels — it can already field aircraft carriers and submarines that are propelled by nuclear power. But Mabus said development of hybrid propulsions systems for ships is already far along, as is the testing of bio-based fuels for aviation fuel and diesel. The greening of the Pentagon shows up at Naval Base Ventura County, one of the region’s largest employers, where efforts to improve energy efficiency have resulted in millions of dollars in new capital investment. That investment will only grow as the base adds solar and perhaps wind installations to its large facilities in the area.

Secretary Mabus’ talk in Santa Barbara was followed a couple of days later by a major address on clean technology and the green economy by Mabus’ boss, President Obama. A number of members of the MIT Enterprise Forum’s Central Coast chapter were invited to watch the address through a special video hookup. We continue to believe that whether it is deploying clean technology at Naval Base Ventura County, performing cutting-edge research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, or working on any number of solar installations proposed for San Luis Obispo County, the green economy has a big role to play in the future of our region. And our region has a large role to play in the future development of our nation’s alternative energy resources.
As Secretary of the Navy Mabus might say, our nation’s future ability to defend itself depends on how well our science and industry leaders perform their roles.

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