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Clean Power farm and industry groups petition senate for alternative fuels

Published on May 26th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Airlines, Farm Groups Petition Senate for Military Biofuels

May 26th, 2012 by  

farm and industry groups petition senate for alternative fuelsAirlines for America, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups banded together last week to ask the Senate Armed Services Committee to quit blocking biofuels and alternative fuels for the Department of Defense.The unusual alliance teams traditional industry and agriculture associations with alternative energy leaders including the Advanced Biofuels Association and the Algal Biomass Organization.

U.S. military and alternative fuels

As covered numerous times in CleanTechnica (here, here and here), the Department of Defense is a key research partner and eager customer for the alternative energy sector, including solar, wind and geothermal as well as liquid fuels.

The military’s interest in fuel diversity and clean energy is straightforward. As a fact-based organization (facts being literally a life-and-death matter), DoD recognizes that fuel diversity will play a critical role in its future effectiveness, both in military and humanitarian operations. DoD also recognizes the importance of  managing greenhouse gas emissions, as a means of tempering emerging threats and conflicts related to global warming.

Penny wise and fuel foolish

In blocking the DoD’s purchase of alternative fuels, both the House and Senate committees did not provide a long term strategic rationale for the decision. The new policy is simply based on current prices. If it stands, the new policy prevents DoD from purchasing any alternative fuels that cost more than fossil fuels.

In addition, the Senate also tacked on a provision blocking DoD from building biofuel refineries without specific authorization from Congress.

Oil, biofuels and budgets

In its letter last week to the Senate committee, the group (including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, and the Pew Charitable Trusts along with the aforementioned ones) aimed squarely at the lack of foresight behind the new policy:

“Continued reliance on foreign oil puts U.S. national security at risk. Oil market volatility has already wreaked havoc on military budgets, which came at the cost of new equipment and training for our troops and reduced military readiness.”

In just the past couple of years, according to the letter, DoD had a $5.6 billion shortfall in military operations and maintenance due to unanticipated higher fuel costs.

Building an alternative fuel market

Thanks in part to purchasing and research support from DoD and other federal agencies, the cost of military grade biofuels in test quantities has

plunged over the past two years, and the letter notes that commercial-scale production will lead to further declines.

In that context, the maneuvering in Congress seems more and more like a desperate, last ditch attempt to monkey wrench the inevitable transition to alternative fuels, rather than a responsible exercise of legislative authority.

Image: Some rights reserved by OmarRiva.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Cl1ffClav3n

    The U.S. only gets 3.6% of its energy from the Persian Gulf, and those countries have to sell oil or collapse, as it’s their only commodity. Our friends in Europe and Asia, far more dependent upon that oil, are glad the U.S. buys some of its oil there, as that reduces the risk we would just walk away and leave them to starve if somebody tried to close the Strait of Hormuz or something else drastic. The much greater risk to everybody’s security is that the U.S. Administration will continue to run it’s fiscal ship into the rocks by flushing money down the toilet on biofuels and vote-buying entitlements, make drastic cuts to the Navy and military, and thereby leave the world’s commerce and oil supply truly at risk. This is the first ray of light out of Congress in a long time.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you are correct and we get only 3.6% of our oil from the Persian Gulf why should we continue to wreck our economy and take money from citizens who truly need our help in order to maintain an outrageously large military?

      Let the people who use the other 94.4% step up and contribute to peacekeeping in order to keep their oil flowing.

      Let’s cut our military down to a more reasonable size and take care of those of us who have been shafted by the greed of the 1%.

      (Ever wonder why the crowd didn’t call out “Cliff!” when you entered the bar…. ;o)

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  • It seems like the Republicans have no strategic vision at all.

    Let’s say the fossil oil reserves of the US get depleted. How would they make their military work if the OPEC countries decide to stop selling oil to the US?

    Obviously, the US needs to kill its dependence on foreign oil if it wants to keep its military power (at least the dependence of the military). This will only work if there is sufficient biofuel production in the US. This can only be developed if they actively buy biofuel from US producers so there is constant demand. Prices will go down especially if the army takes an active role and finances R&D (which it actually does, even now).

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