The United States Department of Defense (DOD) may someday fill the gas tanks of its tanks with domestically produced biofuels, now that the annual Defense Appropriations Bill has been amended. The Senate voted 62-37 in bipartisan favor of repealing a section of the bill that would have blocked the DOD from using biofuels if they cost more than conventional fuels.
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) led the charge to keep America’s military moving towards more sources of renewable energy as outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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The bureaucratic block had been inserted into the bill by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). A similar block in the House of Representatives version of the bill was passed, setting the stage for a Congressional confrontation.
During Congressional debate, Inhofe had justified blocking the use of biofuels by calling it a threat to national security. He also considered the added expense of biofuels as wasteful at a time when the DOD is being forced to cut hundreds of billions from its projected budget and faces the looming sequestrations cuts of the fiscal cliff.
Supporters of the use of biofuel noted that depending on oil from nations like Iran and Venezuela is a threat to American security as well. They also noted that use of domestic biofuels pumps money into the American rural economy.
"Advance biofuels are not yet in full production and so they can't compete with oil, since the oil market is 100 years old," Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said in Reuters. "But DOD investment has caused the price to drop dramatically over the last two years."
The United States military is the largest single user of fuel in the world, and any movement by the DOD towards biofuels and other renewable energy sources sends a message to investors that renewable energy has a market.
The military currently uses biofuels to power vehicles such as the "Green Hornet," an F/A-18 Super Hornet engineered to run on a 50/50 blend of conventional jet fuel and a biofuel that comes from
camelina, a hardy U.S.-grown plant.
Besides biofuels, the U.S. military has been pushing for a decentralized power grid for security reasons, reported Forbes. The DOD and the Department of the Interior opened up 16 million acres of land for solar, wind and geothermal energy production in a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year. By creating off-grid, renewable power supplies, the military can be prepared in the event of widespread blackouts and or breakdowns in the fuel supply line.
Use of renewable energy also reduces the pollution which causes infrared radiation to be trapped in the Earth's atmosphere. The DOD has identified climate change as a major threat to global security and the repercussions of climate change as a potential factor in future armed conflicts.
Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadron 31 fly a combat patrol over Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2008. (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force, Wikimedia Commons)
President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Navy's F/A-18 Green Hornet (U.S. Navy, Wikimedia Commons)