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Panel: Navy will need oil for decades

Philip Ewing, Navy Times
Even as designers experiment with new ways to power the warships of the future, the surface Navy will remain dependent on fossil fuels for at least the next 40 to 50 years, a panel of naval engineers said Tuesday.

Cruisers, destroyers, amphibious ships and littoral combat ships all will probably continue to need some kind of fuel oil, no matter what advanced propulsion systems are fitted or back-fitted on ships, said engineer Alan Roberts. He appeared with colleagues before a meeting of the American Society of Naval Engineers outside Washington.

His talk underscored a larger theme of the engineers’ meeting: That the Navy must make the most efficient use of the world’s dwindling supply of oil, even though the costs of crude have eased significantly compared to their record-setting peaks this summer.

The Navy and the larger oil-burning world are only enjoying a “holiday” or a “grace period,” on fuel costs, but it wouldn’t last, said another panel member, Capt. (sel) Lynn Petersen, deputy director of the Navy’s electric ships office.

… The two senior-most members of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee — chairman Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and ranking member Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. — both have advocated for a new generation of nuclear-powered destroyers, cruisers and large amphibious ships.

Bartlett especially is a believer in the “peak oil” concept, O’Rourke said, the idea that the world will pass a point at which oil production declines, with potentially disastrous consequences. Nuclear power frees the Navy from oil’s financial and operational puppet strings, Taylor and Bartlett have said, but Navy leaders have resisted because of the high upfront costs of building nuclear ships. O’Rourke suggested that a new generation of efficient, hybrid electric propulsion plants could let the Navy point to a cheaper alternative to nuclear power.
(16 December 2008)

Hard Task for New Team on Energy and Climate

John M. Broder and Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times
The team President-elect Barack Obama introduced on Monday to carry out his energy and environmental policies faces a host of political, economic, diplomatic and scientific challenges that could impede his plans to address global warming and America’s growing dependence on dirty and uncertain sources of energy.

Acknowledging that a succession of presidents and Congresses had failed to make much progress on the issues, Mr. Obama vowed to press ahead despite the faltering economy and suggested that he would invest his political capital in trying to break logjams.

“This time must be different,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Chicago. “This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We cannot accept complacency, nor accept any more broken promises.”
(15 December 2008)

Red Flags as Washington Gears Up to Remake Energy Policy

Joseph B. White, Wall Stret Journal
Obama’s pick for energy secretary has argued for regulation and higher prices to rein in energy consumption — precisely what Washington has been avoiding for 30 years.

President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for energy secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who’s on the record calling coal a “nightmare” and advocating raising U.S. gas taxes to European levels to promote conservation. (Here’s video of the speech; the “nightmare” quote comes 28 minutes in.)

Mr. Obama himself has so far dismissed the idea of raising gas taxes, and worked hard during his campaign to reassure the utility and coal industries that he didn’t plan radical steps to slash the use of coal in power generation.

This apparent difference of opinion between Mr. Obama and his likely nominee is just one of the many red flags waving as Washington gears up for the most ambitious effort to remake America’s energy policy since Jimmy Carter slipped on a cardigan.
(15 December 2008)