President Obama Nominates Ret. Admiral McGinn To Lead Navy Energy Efforts

“Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve.” — Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn

On Tuesday, President Obama nominated someone who understands the importance of renewable energy to be the next Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn is currently the President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, and has articulated a reasoned military approach to cutting down on fossil fuel dependency while moving toward clean, reliable renewable energy.

Why is the Navy pursuing net-zero energy policies? As the Director of the Navy’s 1 Gigawatt Task Force, Kerry Gilpin, said in April:

“The real reason we’re doing this is very simple. Secretary Mabus has set two priorities: energy security and energy independence.… Basically we don’t like having vulnerable supply lines … that are not difficult to disrupt. All threats, right? Natural disasters, manmade — anything that could threaten our ability to do our critical missions presents a problem for us.”

Military leaders have come under attack from Senators like James Inhofe when they state the obvious: climate change is happening and the military will bear much of the burdens from dealing with climate impacts, and transitioning from dirty, expensive fossil fuels to clean renewable energy makes the military more self-sufficient and cuts costs.

McGinn has long been an advocate for this transition away from fossil fuels, referring to reports such as this 2007 CNA report titled, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” which lays out the ways in which climate change is a “threat multiplier” around the globe.

He also served on the CNA Military Advisory Board that released the 2009 report “Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security.” This report considered the risks that American energy policy posed to national security, how climate change affects both of these things, and finally “the role the Department of Defense can play in the nation’s approach to energy security and climate change.”

McGinn’s wealth of experience, featuring a 35-year Navy career that included being a test pilot and aircraft carrier commanding officer, paired with his recent expertise in the impact climate change and energy choices have on national security make his nomination to lead energy, installations, and environment efforts at the Navy extremely interesting.

His recent op-eds show even more clearly how military minds can view the feasibility of renewable energy:

September 2012: “It’s long past time to move beyond the accusatory politics of misrepresented facts and return to the bipartisan collaborative spirit that has driven clean energy’s success in this country. With less bad politics and more good policy, the sector can rapidly expand and make America a world leader in clean, renewable energy technology.”

April 2013: “For many years renewable energy has been treated as a political punching bag in American politics. Americans hear false claims that renewable energy is a government-dependent energy source that forces taxpayers to spend more of their hard-earned money on electric bills. This misinformation, perpetuated by so-called ‘free market’ champions like Grover Norquist is being disseminated in an attempt to halt the successful growth of renewable energy and to ensure that America stays dependent on dirty energy sources. Yet, all across the country, in places like Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas and Virginia, an overwhelming majority of Americans — Democrat and Republican, pro-business and pro-environment — support renewable energy.”

July 2013: “It is time all of us take a hard look at every aspect of America’s energy future and see things the way they really are. Renewable energy is an energy security and economic game-changer and needs to be treated as such. From private investment to gigawatt-scale power, clean energy is truly powering a new golden age of American energy development. It’s time for our policymakers to act and help make renewable energy’s unmatched potential a reality.”

28 Responses to President Obama Nominates Ret. Admiral McGinn To Lead Navy Energy Efforts

  1. Endofmore says:

    I was wondering how warships will function when under sail?
    while carriers and submarines might run on nuclear, the rest need conventional fuel
    you can’t produce enough biofuel to run a navy, or drive destroyers on solar panels.
    one is left wondering just what these alternative energy sources might be?

  2. Superman1 says:

    The name of the game with the military is intensive energy use. Given the dispersion of many types of ground forces into smaller units, very compact energy sources of the highest intensity are the focus of development, so these forces can be self-sufficient. The exact opposite of what the alternative sources will supply.

  3. Superman1 says:

    Look at his comments above; are they not the epitome of renewables as the painless transition path? Exactly the point I was making yesterday.

  4. Synthetic liquid hydrocarbons made from renewable electricity and atmospheric carbon dioxide and water. There are already pilot plants.

    Don’t muddy the issue with talk of sailing ships. Who has ever seriously proposed this? Though wind assistance (more probably from power kites than sails) and solar panels can surely meet a useful share of a warship’s needs much of the time. Full combat performance is after all only called for during a tiny fraction of a warship’s life; reserve the precious liquid fuels for when there is no alternative.

    Navies also run large shore establishments, where renewable energies can come in just as for Army and Air Force bases.

  5. Peter Anderson says:


    There are great ironic historical comparisons in these stories about the U.S. generals today fighting to convince our politicians of the urgency of ridding ourselves of dependency on oil, with its vulnerable supply lines, and Churchill’s push 100 years ago to shift the British Navy away from coal to oil, because its greater density enabling longer and faster voyages.

  6. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “The name of the game with the military is intensive energy use … The exact opposite of what the alternative sources will supply.”

    As usual, you don’t know what you are talking about. Numerous factual articles here, at, and elsewhere have documented the US military’s aggressive development and increasing reliance on renewable energy, for everything from powering entire bases to eliminating the need to supply fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan.

  7. catman306 says:

    Sea story from the ’60s:
    My Coast Guard cutter stood 21 day weather patrol watches on Ocean Station Victor, half way between Hawaii and Japan. The ocean stations were 210 square miles of open ocean. We’d steam into the wind to the edge, turn around, and let the wind push us back across the ocean station, then repeat. Our rate of drift was dependent on the wind speed. This was done to conserve fuel. We only had to refuel at sea twice in ten such ocean station patrols.

    Wind power worked for us at sea.

    Before the weather satellites, there were weather ships.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Climate Change and National Security (2010)

  9. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “I forgot more about that area than you will ever know.”

    Evidently you think that what you “forgot” trumps what is actually happening today.

    Which is consistent with your constant, belligerent insistence that your ill-informed opinions are superior to the actual facts that prove you wrong over and over and over again.

    Try to keep up.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The USA maintains twelve aircraft carrier battle-groups, and the rest of the world none. So a big saving might be made by retiring, say, six, and closing, say, several hundred of the approximately 1200 overseas US military bases. The Chinese are doing quite well with none.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In an era of rapid climate destabilisation, resource depletion, multiform other ecological collapses, economic implosion caused by mountains of debt and egregious inequality etc, the maintenance of military empires requiring trillions per year in expenditure is not just immoral, it is insane. All in order that one richly endowed, hyper-rich, but regrettably intensely chauvinistic and jingoistic state, can fulfill its ‘Manifest Destiny’ to impose its will on the rest of humanity, through a doctrine of ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’. If near-term extinction of humanity is to be avoided the very first step must be to recognise that this is a global problem, where all must contribute as much as possible, and no one state, no matter how intoxicated by the glorious delusion of its own ‘exceptionalism’, can strut and fret about, issuing ‘take it or leave it’ orders.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Climate Change cannot be about ‘National Security’. It must be about global human survival.

  13. Endofmore says:

    essentially, the purpose of the US military machine is to maintain and protect energy supplies.
    So the outcome of that is to burn fuel to get hold of fuel to keep thousands of workers in jobs that—-burn fuel.
    Or am I missing something here?

  14. Endofmore says:

    sailing ships was a misplaced attempt at humour—oh well. Maybe the image of square riggers with cannons sticking out of the sides was just too much.
    reconstituting liquid hydrocarbons out of the atmosphere uses more energy than is produced
    So no, you can’t have a fuel reprocessing plant aboard each ship to feed its fuel back into its tanks.

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    If you must have warships, I quite like the idea of them being of the wind variety. Much more exciting like those little English ships darting between the huge unweildy Spanish galleons, ME

  16. Superman1 says:

    “US military’s aggressive development and increasing reliance on renewable energy,” Absolute nonsense; read the program descriptions relative to energy of the military R&D organizations to see what they are actually funding.

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Precisely. The nationalistic response merely displays the maladaption in the competitive system that we have instituted when we know that we have only one planet and we are fundamentally Earthlings, ME

  18. Jim Baird says:

    The best energy alternative for the Navy is to derive its fuel in its own environment with water as the only byproduct of that fuel’s consumption.

    The oceans are the main repository of the heat attributed to climate change, which Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III recently noted is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region.

    It is also a threat to naval operations in general, to the Navy’s land based infrastructure and to the territorial integrity of the United States. ( )

    The Niels Bohr Institute recently projected there will be 10 times as many extreme storm surges should the climate become two degrees Celsius warmer, which is virtually a certainty on the current energy consumption path and the last time global temperatures where that high; sea levels were 70 feet higher.

    Storms derive their power from ocean surface heat which also causes thermal expansion and sea level rise. The accumulation of this heat, in combination with the massive heat sink the deep ocean provides, affords the opportunity to produce energy in a heat engine by the process of ocean thermal energy conversion or OTEC. In turn hydrogen or ammonia as an energy carrier can be produced to convey the energy to shore or to fulfill the Navy’s energy needs, including those of its air operations. Hydrogen was used in one of Germany’s first jet turbine engines and they are currently using a hydrogen fuel cell in their U212A submarine. High-speed, high-altitude, multi-mission hydrogen-powered dirigibles are also on the drawing board.

    Dr. Fujita, Ph.D. in Marine Biology, recently pointed out, “Using large amounts of cold, nutrient rich water from the deep ocean in order to produce energy could have some very negative impacts, like killing sea life by sucking it into the intake pipe or creating algal blooms by discharging nutrient rich sea water into warm, nutrient-poor surface water. But these and other impacts can be prevented or mitigated.”

    The best way to prevent or mitigate these impacts is to use a heat pipe design for OTEC as shown in Dominic Michaelis’ British Patent No. GB 2395754.

    As Paul Curto, former NASA Chief Technologist points out, “if the condensing end of the heat pipe is exposed to a thousand feet or more of near freezing temperatures below the thermocline, no cold water pumping is required. The parasitic losses are cut in half. The costs for the cold water pipes are eliminated, along with the cold water return pipe and condenser pumps, the cleaning system for the condenser, and the overall plant efficiency approaches 85% of Carnot vs. about 70% with a cold water pipe. The parasitic losses could be reduced as much as 50% and the complexity, mass (and cost) of the system reduced by at least 30%. The vast reduction in operating costs and environmental impacts would be worth investigation alone”

    The cost reduction inherent in this design significantly reduces the unit cost of the energy produced.

  19. Jim Baird says:


    OTEC provides energy continuously and the Navy would benefit from massive implementation due to the reduced likelihood of tropical storms that disrupt naval
    operations and sea level rise that threatens coastal infrastructure. Wide spread commercial adoption would also mean readily available refueling opportunities for the
    Navy’s ships at sea.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Earthlings share 99.99etc % of their DNA, and, despite the fissiparous effects of religion, ideology and individual psychology, a huge amount of common behaviour, ie family raising, working for a living, drinking beer, eating together, cooking for family and friends, growing food, keeping pet animals etc. The Right, for reasons of control, utilise despicable ‘divide and rule’ policies to set groups against each other, aided and abetted by hatemongering excrescences like the Murdoch MSM, all in order to perpetuate elite rule. We can not any longer tolerate these malignant forces pushing us to fear and hatred because if we do not hang together as a species, we will surely all hang separately as fools.

  21. fj says:

    Net zero is one of the most important positively disruptive strategies for slowing accelerating climate and it is very encouraging that the military is starting to embrace it.

    World War III will be fought with sonnets for the people of this planet and the exquisite living natural systems that support them.

  22. fj says:

    The existing supporting financial instruments are extraordinary:

    Profound use of natural capital where human capital is the most important component.

  23. fj says:

    And the world’s oceans will likely be the most important place where our supportive planetary home will be restored.

  24. fj says:

    There are now sailboats capable of achieving speeds in excess if 70 mph and similar vehicles travel much faster on land.

  25. fj says:

    Wind powered maglev might not only prove to be practical but also great fun.

  26. fj says:

    Daily, I ride an a absolutely wonderful full size folding bike, in part, designed under military contract continually getting positive comments.

  27. fj says:

    ( . . . ie, designed for paratroopers.)

  28. fj says:

    All this indicates the social change required to deal with climate change will be quite positive.