As the Navy launched the first ship of its “Great Green Fleet” this week, officials revealed that the secret ingredient of the alternative fuel blend powering the ships was waste beef fat -- provided by farmers and ranchers in the Midwest.
The launch comes seven years after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus first announced the concept, focused on promoting the use of alternative fuels and energy efficiency across the Navy.
Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack attended Wednesday's deployment of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale, which became the first Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend in regular operations, according to a Navy news release.
That alternative fuel blend, produced by AltAir Fuels out of California, is composed of a mix of beef tallow and traditional petroleum, officials said. The Navy has purchased 77.6 million gallons of the fuel at a competitive $2.05 per gallon.
That cost-competitive requirement came about after the Navy launched a miniature version of the Great Green Fleet concept during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific joint exercise in Hawaii, spending $12 million to procure 450,000 gallons of an algae-based biofuel blend.
When some lawmakers learned the cost of the fuel worked out to about $26 per gallon, they worked to pass a law preventing bulk purchase of biofuels unless their cost was competitive with conventional fuel sources.
The Navy plans to deploy the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group using the alternative fuels. Along with the Stockdale, the ships in the group include the Stennis, guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, and guided-missile destroyers USS William P. Lawrence and USS Chung-Hoon.
"When it comes to power, my focus has been about one thing and one thing only: better warfighting," Mabus said at the ship launch, according to Navy reports. "The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower. In short, to enable us to provide the global presence that is our mission."