The potential sources for green biofuels never cease to amaze. Now the US Navy is fuelling one fleet with a bizarre cocktail of petroleum and cow fat. The group of ships has been dubbed the PR-friendly "Great Green Fleet", a nod to Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet. The vessel group is made up of an aircraft carrier running on nuclear, and escort ships chugging along on a mix of traditional petrol and a biofuel made from beef fat. Next week, they will take to the seas for the first time, departing from San Diego.
Back in 2009, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that he wanted half the Navy's energy coming from non-fossil fuels by 2020. In addition to becoming more eco-friendly, the program will also help cut the American military's dependence on foreign oil. According to Mabus, the 50-50 ratio is still too expensive for now, so the four ships setting out from San Diego will use a mix that's only 10-per cent beef fat fuel and 90-per cent petrol. Further green fuel initiatives will be rolled out throughout 2016, with aircraft and amphibious vehicles also burning biofuels like grade-A bovine juice.
Governments and corporations alike are on the hunt for emissions-cutting biofuels that can be brewed domestically. Microalgae, for example, is being eyed by the US Department of Energy, Japanese startups and international airlines. (In 2011 an algae-powered commercial United flight sent passengers from Chicago to Houston.) Researchers are still trying to figure out ways to get algae fuel costs on par with fossil fuels.
Regardless of how it's done, the US military's move towards green energy is a big deal. The US Department of Defence is the world's biggest consumer of energy, and the Navy accounts for one third of that burn. Biofuels could cut that fuel suck, though, whether they're made from fatty cow juices or slimy green scum.
Image: AP Photo/Gregory Bull