Senate votes to reverse ban on Defense funds for biofuels plants
Washington (Platts)--29Nov2012/539 pm EST/2239 GMT
The US Senate on Thursday voted 54-41 to reverse a plan included in a
larger defense policy bill that would have ended the Department of Defense's
participation in an agreement aimed at boosting the supply of biofuels
available to the military.
The vote came one day after the Senate agreed, by a 62-37 vote, to
remove a related provision from that bill that would have barred the US
military from buying alternative fuels that are more expensive than
petroleum-based fossils fuels, including jet fuel and diesel.
Both provisions the Senate voted to reverse this week were included in
the National Defense Authorization Act when the bill was marked up by the
Senate Armed Services Committee in May.
The vote Thursday would preserve an agreement signed in August 2011 by
the secretaries of the departments of Agriculture and Energy and the Navy that
called for a $510 million investment to help the biofuels industry build or
retrofit commercial-scale biorefineries. The agreement calls for matching
investments from private industry.
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An amendment included in the bill during markup prevented the Defense
Department from participating in that agreement.
Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who introduced the
amendment this week to retain Defense's participation in that $510 million
agreement, said investment in the biofuels industry was needed to reduce
costs to the military and enhance energy security. Defense, which spent $17
billion on fuel in fiscal 2011, sees a $100 million cost increase when the
price of oil goes up $1, Hagan said.
"Developing a commercially viable biofuels industry could help [Defense]
diversify its fuel sources and reduce the risk of energy volatility," Hagan
said in a Senate floor speech. "[D]iversifying our energy mix will also help
protect our military from the costs associated with price spikes in oil.
Sudden energy cost increases force [Defense] to reallocate finite resources
away from long-term priorities."
Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who originally sought to
prevent Defense from participating in the agreement, said Thursday that the
Pentagon should not be in the business of building or retrofitting biofuels
plants, particularly since he said these funds are being diverted from
military operations. He said biofuels investment should be done exclusively
by private industry and non-Defense agencies since using defense funds for
this program could create a "combat readiness problem" for the military.
Inhofe said Hagan's amendment would for the first time allow "scarce"
Defense funding to be spent on building and retrofitting biofuels plants,
which he said should be in the purview of the Energy and Agriculture
Three Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Charles Grassley of
Iowa and Richard Lugar of Indiana, voted for Hagan's amendment Thursday. Only
one Democrat, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, voted against it.
The House version of the defense bill includes language barring the
military from buying more expensive biofuels, which was reversed in the
Senate version of the bill Wednesday.
Those differences will need to be resolved during a conference committee
on the two bills.
But the House version of the bill does not contain any limitations
on Defense spending on retrofitting or building biofuels plants as the Senate
--Brian Scheid, email@example.com
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org