Senate Panel Cuts Off Navy’s Biofuel Buys

Publication: Wired

Author: Noah Shachtman

05/24/2012 - The Navy’s ambitious renewable-energy plans aren’t sunk quite yet. But they took a major hit Thursday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to all-but-ban the military from buying alternative fuels.

The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure earlier this month. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who are generally skeptical of alternative energy efforts. Democrats are in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if anything, the Senate’s alt-fuel prohibition goes even further than the House’s. If it becomes law, if would not only sink the Navy’s attempt to sail a “Great Green Fleet,” powered largely by biofuels. It would also sabotage a half-billion-dollar program to shore up a tottering biofuels industry.

Like their counterparts in the House, senators prohibited the Pentagon from buying renewable fuels that are more expensive than traditional ones — a standard that biofuels may never meet. In addition, the committee blocked the Defense Department from helping build biofuel refineries unless “specifically authorized by law” – just as the Navy was set to pour $170 million into an effort with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to do precisely that.


“It is a disappointment that a slim majority of the Senate Armed Services Committee has chosen to restrict efforts by the Department of Defense to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Today’s vote will hurt the DoD’s efforts to protect its budget from oil price shocks, diversify its energy mix and ensure security of supply,” Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, said in a statement. “This is a step backwards.”


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