The Navy's effort extends beyond just biofuels, of course, and includes projects such as lightening loads for U.S. marines by using solar cells to replace heavy batteries. "When you think of a marine, the first thing you think of is probably not an ardent environmentalist," Mabus noted. "They truly have embraced this" because it saves lives. Indeed, for every 50 fuel convoys in Afghanistan, one marine dies.
This July the Navy intends to demonstrate a "Great Green Fleet" in Hawaii, which will include a nuclear-powered carrier and submarine but also all aircraft and surface ships burning a 50-50 blend of biofuels and petroleum-derived fuels. It is a bid to demonstrate that the U.S. Navy can power its vehicles with more secure domestic biofuels that also happen to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Already, the USS Ford has cruised from Washington State to San Diego on a 50-50 blend of marine diesel and biodiesel, among other demonstrations in recent years.
That type of fuel is exactly what UOP aims to provide in the long run. "The idea is to demonstrate that the combination of our pyrolysis and our upgrading technology provides superior economic returns for people who own biomass and want to turn it into transportation fuels," Rekoske says—an effort that could be useful on other islands or even the U.S. mainland. "We'll show the world this ravenous teenager of a technology we have that can eat anything and turn it into transportation fuel."