House Republicans are making a full court press to pass a defense budget $8 billion larger than caps set by the Budget Control Act. The House Armed Services Committee’s proposed budget would include pet projects like a $5 billion initiative spread across three years, to build an East Coast missile defense system which the military doesn’t want. But it appears that House Republicans have no interest in the Navy’s efforts to consume more biofuels and fuel from green energy sources.
On Monday, the Navy will announce the ships for its demonstration “Great Green Fleet” — an aircraft carrier strike group powered by biolfuels and other green energy sources — but, as reported by Wired’s Danger Room, the House Armed Services Committee is banning the Pentagon from buying alternative fuel that costs more than a “traditional fossil fuel” in its report on next year’s budget. That’s a standard that the upstart biofuel industry will find hard to meet and could well spell the end of the Pentagon’s early efforts to end a dependence on fossil fuels.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is one of the staunch defenders of the inflated defense budget, has been on a mission to kill the Navy’s use of biofuels since at least February. In a February hearing, the Viriginia Republican attacked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus:
I understand that alternative fuels may help our guys in the field, but wouldn’t you agree that the thing they’d be more concerned about is having more ships, more planes, more prepositioned stocks. Shouldn’t we refocus our priorities and make those things our priorities instead of advancing a biofuels market?
Before letting Mabus answer, Forbes, whose homestate houses the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, shot back, “You’re not the secretary of the energy. You’re the secretary of the Navy.”
Indeed, the Republican opposition to biofuels, while encouraging various other types of military spending, may have a political dimension. In President Obama’s State of the Union speech in January, he put the Department of Defense at the forefront of an ambitious alternative energy plan. In February, Forbes quipped, “Now look, I love green energy. It’s a matter of priorities.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made the case last October that military use of green energy technologies “saves lives” and an Army study in August found “A fighting force that isn’t restricted by the reach of a tanker truck or weighted down by heavy batteries is more nimble and, as a result, more lethal.”