Farm Industry News Blog

Energy security: fuel for thought this Memorial Day

The Senate Committee on Armed Services completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While the markup recognizes the importance of reducing dependency on fossil fuels, it also puts some restrictions on the Department of Defense's use of renewable fuels.

 

This week, just before the Memorial Day weekend in fact, the Senate Committee on Armed Services completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2013. This bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

 

The Senate Committee’s markup “emphasizes the reduction of dependency on fossil fuels and seeks greater energy security and independence, and pursues technological advances in traditional and alternative energy storage . . . renewable energy production . . ..”

 

But, as one reads further into the markup, it also prohibits 2013 funding for the production or purchase of alternative fuel “if the cost of producing or purchasing the alternative fuel exceeds the cost of traditional fossil fuel.” (The Senate Committee does provide an exception for the DoD to complete engine or fleet certification for 50/50 fuel blends using Research Development Test & Evaluation funds.)

 

The markup also prohibits the DoD from entering into a contract to plan, design or construct a biofuels refinery, unless authorized by law.

 

Not surprisingly, the roll call votes regarding the use of funds for the purchase of alternative fuel and the prohibition of DoD to enter into biorefinery contracts pretty much ran along party lines. See for yourself at http://armed-services.senate.gov/press/SASC%20RCVs%20ON%20FY%202013%20NDAA%20MARKUP.pdf.

 

Several biofuels organizations, as well as the American Farm Bureau Federation, have stated they will be working with members of the Senate to “restore support within the NDAA for the DoD’s commitment to accelerate production of American-made, advanced, ‘drop-in’ fuels for use in military jets, ships, and vehicles.”

 

They point out that the advanced biofuels industry has increased cost competitiveness, adding that the per-gallon cost of test quantities of advanced biofuels under DoD contracts has declined more than 90 percent over the past two years and will continue to decline as these technologies scale to commercial production.

 

Speaking last December at Georgetown University, Edward Thomas Morehouse Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, said that DoD officials expect that investments in the alternative fuels industry “will get us to a place where alternative fuels are sustainable, scalable and affordable.”

 

This is important to remember as we head into the Memorial Day weekend because every gallon of fuel (whether it is biodiesel or ethanol) produced in the U.S. reduces our reliance on foreign oil. As the AFBF, the Advanced Biofuels Association, Growth Energy and others so succinctly put it, “Continued reliance on foreign oil puts U.S. national security at risk.”  

 

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