America deserves its reputation for innovation. Throughout our history, the public and private sectors have collaborated to invent and commercialize technologies that have propelled the economy and improved our quality of life in transportation, agriculture, and telecommunications.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has been at the forefront of such innovation. The Internet, semiconductors, and global positioning systems are just a few of the keystone technologies developed as a result of DoD’s investment in emerging industries. The Pentagon now leads once again, this time in the area of clean, renewable energy, specifically biofuels.
The military consumes 300,000 barrels of oil per day, which is more than what three-quarters of the world’s countries use on a daily basis. This presents a compelling reason for investing in clean, renewable energy. Last year the Pentagon spent $11 billion on operational energy, or fuel. An increase of $10 in the price of a barrel of oil translates into an additional $1.3 billion annually, according to the Pentagon.
Transporting conventional fuels is not only expensive, but it also costs lives. In 2010 alone, there were about 1,100 attacks on American fuel convoys worldwide—an average of more than three per day. That is one more reason why the Pentagon has established a strategic imperative to reduce consumption of imported oil and set a target of obtaining 25 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources by 2025.
To meet its clean energy goals in transportation, the Defense Department has embarked on concerted efforts to harness advanced biofuels that do not have to be imported from hostile regimes, can be locally produced, and will meet all of the military’s performance specifications. Advanced biofuels—produced from algae, the oilseed plant camelina, sawgrass, and other organic matter—will not impinge on food security and will be cleaner and cheaper than oil.
As an early adopter of new fuel technology, the military provides a boost to the private sector, as it has with emerging industries in the past. These energy innovations are helping to spur the kind of change that can save lives and money and decrease our country’s reliance on imported oil. Congress should continue to support the Pentagon’s investment in clean, advanced biofuels.
The following resources outline the benefits of federal investment in biofuels and provide some history for the current discussions in Congress about future investment in these next-generation fuels.