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The Navy's new masters of energy

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Monday rolled out another tool that he hopes will put the Navy on the right path toward using energy better: A master's degree program specifically geared toward energy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. A corps of officers with specific training in energy -- its use, origins, etc. -- will help the Navy get better about using it at the operational level, not just from the top leadership level, Mabus hopes.

"Energy is not just an issue for the future, or just the young officers and policy experts that make up NPS's student population. It is an issue for all levels of the Navy and Marine Corps, uniform and civilian," Mabus said. And according to a Navy announcement, the master's program won't be the only new program going forward -- Mabus also will launch an "executive energy series," meetings at which top officials in the Navy Department will try to get their arms around the services' pressing energy issues.

"Beginning early next year, NPS will launch the SECNAV Executive Energy Series, two-week programs attended by senior civilians and designed to tackle specific energy challenges. Mabus believes establishing educational programs in line with the energy security mission will further embed and institutionalize energy into the fabric of the Navy and Marine Corps," as the Navy put it.

Will all this help? It can't hurt. The promise of alternative fuels, better efficiency and new technologies are too enticing for the services to pass up. And if an energy master's proves popular, its benefits could only grow: Over the long term, energy-trained naval officers may leave active duty and either stay in the Navy supporting new alternative energy programs or go work for the vendors that want to sell the fleet the new gear it needs. For example, a new 'hybrid' electric propulsion system for the Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, possibly introduced  aboard future ships and then back-fitted to the rest of the fleet, could save millions of gallons of fuel per year. But first somebody has to perfect it.

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