HONOLULU, Jan. 10, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the Obama Administration's commitment to renewable energy today at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument's Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Pearl Harbor naval base was the first Hawaii military marine fleet to use biodiesel, replacing the Department of Navy-operated tour boats that shuttled visitors to and from the USS Arizona Memorial with five new boats capable of running on 100% biodiesel.
"Advanced biofuels provide landowners, businesses and communities in Hawaii and throughout the country the opportunity to pursue new energy advancements that create jobs and build a stronger economy," said Vilsack. "By joining with partners like the U.S. Navy, USDA is supporting investments in innovative technologies to help our nation develop renewable energy to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world."
In April 2009, Pearl Harbor Naval Base replaced its 20-year-old U.S. Navy-operated USS Arizona Memorial tour boats with environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art boats that are currently powered by a blend of 20% biodiesel. The fleet's goal is to eventually transition to using 100% biodiesel. The biodiesel is produced by Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel, Inc. which created one of the first biodiesel plants in the United States in 1996.
At today's event, Vilsack highlighted the partnership between the U.S. Navy and USDA to promote biofuels. In January 2010, USDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to encourage development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems. Last summer, President Obama announced an investment in the private sector of up to $510 million during the next three years to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March 2010 as part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, the Administration's framework for reducing dependence on foreign oil. Last month, USDA and the U.S. Navy announced that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel, the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history. In addition, USDA recently announced five major research projects aimed at developing biofuels.
The advancement of renewable energy is particularly important to Hawaii, which currently relies on imported fossil fuels for over 90% of its energy needs. Ongoing research and commitment to the development of renewable energy will help lessen this dependence and enable Hawaii to become a model for the production of drop-in fuels for automobiles, jets, tactical vehicles and electrical generators. Through the utilization of Hawaii-grown algae, eucalyptus, sweet sorghum, banana grass, jatropha and energy cane, drop-in biofuels can serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines.
The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil, combat global warming, and lay a strong foundation for a strong 21st Century rural economy. At Secretary Vilsack's direction, USDA continues working to revitalize the rural economy to create opportunity for future growth and prosperity through a strategic approach to rural revitalization, including biofuels.
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