When Ray Mabus, Secretary of the U.S. Navy, addressed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in early March, he lamented the expensive challenge of protecting the open seas on vehicles powered only by fossil fuels.
“Both the Navy and the Marine Corps must use energy more efficiently and we must lead in the development of alternative energy,” he stated [PDF] in that address, “otherwise, we put at risk our military readiness, we put at risk our national security, we put at risk the lives of our Sailors and Marines.”
Despite these eloquent and timely statements, House Republicans would prefer it if Mabus would keep such practical ideas to himself.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee voted to prohibit the Defense Department from buying any alternative fuels that cost more than fossil fuels (all of them) and to repeal part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that has been the catalyst for efforts to wean the country off petroleum. If successful, experts say the amendment could be a fatal blow to the already struggling biofuels industry, which owes its survival thus far to large military purchases.
According to Wired, Committee Republicans, like Rep. Randy Forbes, insist this isn’t an attempt to kill off military biofuels before they have a chance to start. “Now, look, I love green energy,” he said in February. “It’s a matter of priorities.”
Apparently military readiness, national security, the lives of Sailors and Marines, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars aren’t top priorities.
Afraid for their futures, the Advanced Biofuels Association, Airlines for America, the Algal Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization and the National Farm Bureau Federation recently 7 sent letters to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees asking them to support the departments of Agriculture, Energy and the Navy in their efforts to transition to alternative fuels. Those three departments are scheduled to participate in a May 18 roundtable in Washington, D.C. to sort through some of these issues.
“It ought to move forward,” Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts clean energy program, said of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative. “It’s not controversial. Or at least it shouldn’t be.”
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