Algae-powered Navy destroyer part of capability-driven energy strategy

Thursday - 12/8/2011, 7:43pm EST

Rear Adm. Phillip Cullom, U.S. Navy

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

Late last month, the U.S.S. Paul H. Foster, a Navy destroyer off the coast of California, sailed into history.

About 20,000 gallons of algae helped power the ship in a test of the Navy's efforts to run its vehicles on renewable energy sources.

"We took it out there and took it around the block, so to speak, and we tested it on different types of fuels," said Rear Adm. Phillip Cullom, director of the Energy and Environmental Readiness Division in the office of the chief of naval operations.

The fuel used — a 50-50 blend between the algae-based alternative and a traditional petroleum — operated smoothly on the seas, Cullom said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

"It performed exactly as if it was a petroleum-based fuel," Cullom said. "Absolutely no difference."

People often point to the Navy's energy efforts and "immediately look to the alternative fuels arena," Cullom said. But the Navy's energy strategy takes a wider view than that, he said, especially in terms of delivering more combat capabilities to deployed service members.

"It's why the vast majority of our effort, and energy and resources are really devoted to figuring out how to be more efficient," he said. "In other words: How to sip, not guzzle our fuel."

The Navy has a history of managing its energy supply smartly, he said, pointing to Col. James H. Doolittle's use of stripped-down B-25 bombers during World War II.

"We certainly have a good history of doing .. and showing that we can manage energy smartly," Cullom said.

The goal is for an alternative-fuel-powered Navy Strike Group by 2012 and, eventually, a "Great Green fleet" by 2016.

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