One might assume, or at least hope, that the fallout over the $535 million Solyndra loan scandal would make the Obama administration think twice before lavishing more taxpayer dollars on politically connected “green energy” firms. Not in the slightest.
The administration’s latest boondoggle involves the use of executive authority to essentially force the U.S. Navy to buy 450,000 gallons of “alternative” biofuel, at the bargain-counter rate of just $15 per gallon. It is the largest federal purchase of biofuel in U.S. history. The massive “investment” is part of President Obama’s broader biofuel initiative, announced in August, on which he envisions spending $510 million over the next three years to support the use of biofuel in military and commercial transportation.
Although the bulk of that funding will require Congressional approval (which it probably won’t get), the White House is charging ahead with this $12 million deal with the Navy — using the Defense Department’s procurement authority as leverage — as part of its recently announced (and widely mocked) “We Can’t Wait” campaign. “This is not work we can afford to put off for another day,” declared Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier this month.
The fuel, a mixture of petroleum and processed algae oil, will be used to power the “Great Green Fleet Carrier Strike Force” (not a parody) during the Navy’s summer 2012 exercises in the Pacific Rim. The name is another nod to Teddy Roosevelt, whose Great White Fleet, which was actually painted white, circumnavigated the globe between 1907 and 1909 to show off the United States’ expanding naval capability.
In this case, the Obama administration seems to be trying to showcase its unfailing commitment to costly, inefficient sources of energy. At a time when the Defense Department is facing cuts of up to $1 trillion over the next ten years — the Navy recently had to lay off some 3,000 sailors — the administration has determined that shelling out $15 a gallon for biofuel is a smart use of our limited resources. That’s 375 percent more expensive than the standard JP-5 fuel the Navy uses, which typically costs around $4 per gallon, a hefty premium regardless, but even harder to justify when algae-based biofuel may not be that “green” after all. A University of Virginia study recently concluded that though such fuels “offer a higher level of energy output and require a minimum level of land area to develop, the production of such fuels results in significantly more environmental degradation.”