Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Wednesday announced the USDA-Navy joint "Farm-to-Fleet" venture will now make biofuel blends part of operational fuel purchase and use by the military.
This is the first time alternative fuels approved for jet engines and marine diesel engines will be available through regular procurement practices. The regular procurement process lowers barriers for alternative domestic fuel suppliers to do business with DOD, a USDA statement said.
"This effort marks the start of a new normal," Mabus said during a press call regarding the announcement. "This is just part of our normal business of buying fuel, and that's what it will be into the future."
The Navy will submit solicitations in 2014 to begin buying fuel in mid-2015, Mabus said. JP-5 and F-76 advanced drop-in biofuels blended from 10 to 50% with conventional fuels will be considered.
Preliminary indications from the Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project are that drop-in biofuels will be available for less than $4 per gallon by 2016, making them competitive with traditional sources of fuel, USDA said.
In the meantime, funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation will ensure drop-in biofuels remain cost-competitive for the Navy.
The Farm-to-Fleet program is part of the USDA-Navy partnership inaugurated in 2010, when President Barack Obama challenged his Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to investigate how they could work together to speed the development of domestic "drop-in" diesel and jet fuel substitutes.
Vilsack said the partnership as a whole, coupled with the latest announcement, will spur more interest in alternative aviation and marine fuels. It will also offer benefits to the rural economy, Vilsack said.
"Not only will production of these fuels create jobs in rural America, they're cost effective for our military, which is the biggest consumer of petroleum in the nation. America's Navy shouldn't have to depend on oil supplies from foreign nations to ensure our national defense," Vilsack said in a USDA statement.
The recent proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency, Vilsack said, is unlikely to have an impact on the production of drop-in biofuels.
"Regardless of what EPA may or may not do," Vilsack said, the USDA-Navy announcement is an indication that American industries can work together to expand opportunity. He noted that it will also improve optimism of biofuels producers.
"This is another step toward energy security, it's another step toward our national security," Navy Secretary Mabus added.
USDA and Navy also are collaborating on an Industry Day, Jan. 30, 2014, where stakeholders can learn more about Farm-to-Fleet.