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Clean-Tech’s Unlikely Champion

Is the Pentagon setting the pace for renewable energy?

Solazyme Inc.

A Riverine Command Boat running on a 50/50 blend of algae-based and traditional fuel.

Thirty years ago, the idea of a military-alternative energy partnership might have raised some eyebrows, particularly among solar entrepreneurs here in Northern California. But in the wake of Solyndra’s crash and burn, the Pentagon has become one of clean-tech’s strongest remaining allies in Washington. Leading the charge is Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whom I interviewed last week for my radio report on KQED’s Quest.

According to a recent study from the Pew Charitable Trust, the military has tripled its investment in technologies like biofuels, solar panels, and electric vehicles over the last four years. Today, it spends $1.2 billion a year on alternative fuels. That amount is expected to reach $2.25 billion by 2015. Mabus says he wants to see the Navy and Marine Corps getting at least half of their fuel from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020. Continue reading