Posting in Design
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill containing an amendment that would encourage the military to use high carbon fuels such as liquid coal.
The U.S. House of Representatives could thwart the military’s steady march toward meeting its renewable energy objectives if an amendment in a defense spending bill that lawmakers passed today becomes law.
House Republicans added an amendment to the House Armed Services Committee authorization bill that could overturn a provision in a 2007 law prohibiting the military from using high-carbon fuels such as liquid coal and oil sands.
Republicans have argued that the provision poses an unnecessary strategic risk to military operations by exposing it to supply volatility on the international oil market and that biofuels are wasteful spending.
The current law, written by Democrats, has left the military focusing on biofuels derived from sources such as algae and solar power.
The military must purchase its solar equipment from domestic sources. Efforts to change the law are concerning to progressive think thanks and environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been monitoring the bill’s passage on its blog.
“Congress should speed the development and deployment of significantly cleaner domestic biofuels instead of spending tax dollars on dirtier fuels that accelerate global warming, which will foster unrest in nations impacted by global warming,” Daniel Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, wrote in reaction to today’s vote.
However, liquid coal has staunch supporters on both sides of the isle. Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Tim Holden has fought to restore funding to a Department of Energy project that would convert waste coal to usable diesel fuel. Holden called for an investigation when funding was re-appropriated by the Bush administration.
Critics of the low-carbon provision included defense analysts at the RAND Corporation who have said that low-carbon biofuels are not cost effective, and the American Petroleum Institute is lobbying hard for the importation of oil from “friendly” Canada.
The U.S. Navy has disputed the RAND Corporation’s findings, the New York Times reports. The Department of Defense has also concluded that climate change is an “accelerant of instability” throughout the world; carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are a leading contributor to climate change.
Last year, the Pentagon set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a third within a decade. That makes it necessary for 25 percent of its energy to come from renewable technologies.
The military burns through 120 million barrels of oil annually, and has begun projects to realize its renewable energy goals. Those projects include using biofuel blends in Air Force fighter jets, hybrid Army blimps, and an entire Marine Corps unit is now functioning entirely on solar power.
Solar power has reduced the Marines’ exposure to improvised explosive devices and has cut maintenance expenses, the military says.
Photo: U.S. Air Force/Flickr
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May 26, 2011
As repugnant as it may be to people here, the military must have those fuel sources available at all times in case conventional supplies are cut off in a time of war. Trust me that they do not want to use those fuels on a regular basis because of the well documented maintenance issue that come into play using those fuels daily. The military has a long history of wanting longer range and better operating distances from less fuel because it reduces the support logistics footprint of any operation. A great example is the fact that todays planes fly higher and faster on less fuel than 20 years ago. A more beneficial course of action would be enhanced support of alternative fuel / propulsion technology that will eventually trigger a natural reduction in the militaries reliance of petroleum-based fuels. Our military leaders fully understand the military benefits of cleaner, more independent fuel sources. They do not need a law to tell them to reduce fuel usage. Grow up people and face the reality of the world we live in. The 2007 provision was passed strictly as a matter of political posturing to get votes from a targeted group of people. They bought your votes with an unsustainable promise that compromises national security.