KANEOHE, Hawaii (NNS) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Navy (DON) co-hosted a renewable energy and bio-energy industry forum at the Kaneohe Bay Officers Club on Marine Corps Base Hawaii April 6, to share information about a recently announced collaborative energy opportunity.
Earlier this year, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack signed a memorandum of understanding to support President Barack Obama's initiative to reduce energy consumption derived from fossil fuels and to increase energy production from renewable sources.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen A. Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel highlighted cross-departmental collaboration on renewable energy initiatives.
"The memorandum of understanding signed this past January by the Department of the Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture formed a partnership that builds on each of the two departments independent strengths. Additionally, it brings together our mutual experiences in renewable energy and bio-fuels development," said Pfannenstiel.
Merrigan and Pfannenstiel explained that Hawaii can harvest certain types of crops, known as bio-crops, that can be processed into renewable fuels, known as bio-fuels, which can be used in Navy ships and aircraft as an alternative to fossil fuels.
"The State of Hawaii is a partner with us and the Department of Agriculture, and they're going to allow us to model what can be done, what crops can be grown in Hawaii and show how we can use them to help our nation get off of fossil fuels," said Pfannenstiel.
Three breakout sessions were held in the afternoon to provide information to the public on the development of a bio-fuels industry in Hawaii, which can potentially utilize the purchasing power of the Navy as a "pull" for production.
"The Department of the Navy consumes about three percent of Hawaii's petroleum and so when you think about it, Hawaii has the supply of bio-fuels that the Navy needs and the Navy has the demand for those bio-fuels to help give them a market," explained Pfannenstiel.
During the sessions, the participants discussed bio-fuels development for Hawaii, growing bio-crops and converting and developing a bio-fuel.
Merrigan said Hawaii has been selected as the location for the initial collaboration between USDA and the Navy because Hawaii's energy costs are among the highest in the nation and imported oil supplies 90 percent of the state's energy.
She also said a larger bio-fuel industry can help boost the economy of Hawaii.
"While this agreement will help meet the Navy's energy needs in Hawaii and move the nation toward a greener, more energy independent 21st century, its effects will also reach into communities, stimulating economies, reducing energy costs and creating jobs," explained Merrigan.
Hundreds of representatives from companies and organizations involved in Hawaii's energy industry attended the forum.
Also in attendance was Hawaii Lieutenant Governor James. R. "Duke" Aiona Jr., Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Pawling, chief of staff for U.S. Pacific Command, and Rear. Adm. Dixon Smith, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.
"We're very grateful to the State of Hawaii for giving us the first opportunity to put this agreement on the ground, and we know we'll be doing similar work in states across the country," said Merrigan.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrh/.