Navy Energy Official Predicts Biofuels Success
By Matthew Mientka
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 A senior Navy official yesterday criticized a major “think tank” for its outlook on the development of alternative fuel technologies and markets.
Tom Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, said in a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable that a report from the nonprofit Rand Corp. to Congress this week contained "misrepresentations and some factual errors," particularly with regard to Navy development of new fuels.
The Rand Corp. failed to consult the Navy and with industry, Hicks said, and "based on [our] active engagement with industry, we have come to some far different conclusions."
The Rand report erroneously describes the Navy as operating a testing program for a petroleum substitute used to make low-sulfur diesel fuel, whereas the service focuses exclusively on biofuels, Hicks said. The report also fails to link the development of alternative fuels to national security and downplays the possibility government and industry would succeed in making such fuels practical, he added.
The Navy came to a starkly different conclusion after speaking with other government agencies, including the Energy Department, and with corporations and the venture capitalists that fund them, Hicks said. For one thing, he said, the American military possesses sufficient purchasing power to sometimes drive market realities, increasing the chances of developing new fuels in sufficient quantities at the right price.
Though the military represents only 2 percent of the U.S. petroleum market, Hicks said, the services likely would drive market trends, given the finances of America's largest oil user, the commercial aviation industry.
Hicks also emphasized that new energy would allow America to obtain energy independence.
"We've been focused since October on a range of [energy] issues,” he said. “Most notably that by 2020, 50 percent of our fuel will come from alternative sources. I think we're looking at this maybe in a broader context -- from an energy independence and energy security point of view."
Navy officials predict the maturation of the biofuels market within the next five years, Hicks said.