Senate panel cuts off Navy’s biofuel buys

Wired reports: 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.

The measures — amendments to the Pentagon’s budget for next year — were pushed by two Republicans. Sen. James Inhofe has long been one of the Republican’s fiercest critics of renewable energy efforts; Sen. John McCain has in recent years turned away from long-held eco-friendly positions.

“Adopting a ‘green agenda’ for national defense of course is a terrible misplacement of priorities,” McCain told National Journal Daily on Tuesday, calling it “a clear indication that the president doesn’t understand national security.”

Which Democrats joined McCain in passing the amendments is unclear; the vote was held in a closed session of the committee.

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2 thoughts on “Senate panel cuts off Navy’s biofuel buys

  1. Steve Zerger

    The military brass hardly cares about any “green agenda”. But they can see the vulnerability of their gargantuan energy requirements, and they are quite rationally beginning to worry. Biofuels aren’t going to save them of course, but at least give them some credit for a modest degree of foresight.

  2. Steve Zerger

    The military as our main foreign policy tool is becoming trapped in a self-defeating positive feedback loop in which insatiable thirst for energy drives aggressive war-making in energy-rich regions, which not only consumes enormous quanities of the resources sought, but also degrades the very human and capital infrastructures required to produce the resources.

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