MIT Sloan alumnus Damian Blazy works for Oliver Wyman Consulting as coordinator of the Midwest Biofuels Initiative. While serving in the military under Vice Admiral Phillip Cullum, he partnered with the school to study the Navy’s use of fossil and bio-fuels.   

A POWERFUL PARTNERSHIP WITH THE US MILITARY

Damian Blazy has long been connected with sustainability at MIT Sloan. As special assistant to Navy Vice Admiral Cullum, he partnered with the school to examine the Navy’s petroleum use. He went on to earn his Executive MBA from MIT Sloan, and today is project coordinator for the Midwest Aviation Biofuels Initiative.

Rethinking inefficient procedures

As the world’s largest consumer of petroleum products, the Navy is highly sensitive to price volatility. The 2008 price spike boosted its annual fuel bill from $1.2 billion to $5.4 billion, pushing it to research greener forms of energy. Through MIT Sloan S-Lab and L-Lab Action Learning courses, students worked with Blazy on several energy-related projects. One examined policy and procedure changes that might reduce energy use. For example, Navy policy had specified that excess fuel allotted for training missions could be burned up by flying at higher speeds or conducting impromptu combat simulations. “This wasn’t as easy as coming up with a new rule,” Blazy says. “Oftentimes there was a cultural shift involved.”

Another project evaluated the viability of developing camelina oil as a biofuel, taking into account the potential impact that commercialization might have on food prices. A third project looked at whether the military could partner with industry to create a viable biofuel market. “Everyone says they want to use biofuels, yet a viable marketplace has yet to develop,” Blazy says. “We wanted to know if we could work with airlines and cargo carriers to create a meaningful market.”

Because the Navy has such enormous energy needs, we wanted to see what actions it could take to stimulate the marketplace for alternative fuels.

The findings were quoted during a congressional session: even with demand for biofuels from the Navy and other key players, it would take further policy intervention and industry collaboration to provide the necessary financial investment and talent to the supply side.

Blazy completed MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA program while working on these projects, dividing his time between his base in Virginia and Cambridge. “Because I was working and going through the program at the same time, I could immediately apply the tools and skills I gained in the classroom,” he says. “It was really a two-year exercise in action learning.”

After completing his MBA, Blazy joined Oliver Wyman as a management consultant. He is coordinator of the Midwest Aviation Biofuels Initiative, where he is applying his academic and military experience to bring together organizations from across the biofuels value chain. “I’m confident that there is a future for biofuels,” he says. “The interest is there, we just need to leverage it to build a real market.”