National Journal: McCain, Inhofe Push Through Amendment Limiting Pentagon's Green-Energy Program
May 25, 2012
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
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McCain, Inhofe Push Through Amendment Limiting Pentagon's Green-Energy Program
By Coral Davenport
Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Pentagon's efforts to move from oil to alternative fuels got another big blow on Thursday, as the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a bill that would curb military spending authority on biofuels.
The bill, expected to hit the Senate floor in June, injects the Defense Department's once low-profile energy programs into the center of the bitter political fight over so-called green energy.
Proponents of the military's alternative-energy initiatives said they were shocked and disappointed that the Senate panel approved the limitation provision in the annual defense authorization bill. Similar language was included in a companion bill passed by the Republican-controlled House last week, but it was expected that it would fail in the Democratic-majority Senate.
In fact, the provision, offered as an amendment by Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.-the Senate's most prominent global-warming skeptic-goes farther than the House bill, which simply bans the Pentagon from purchasing biofuels that are more expensive than conventional jet fuel. The McCain-Inhofe amendment says that the Pentagon cannot build a refinery for biofuels unless such a project is authorized by law.
The provision didn't sit well with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "Our committee traditionally works in an exemplary bipartisan fashion to do what is best for our troops and our security," Udall said. "Unfortunately, some of my colleagues chose to stifle DOD's incredible work on developing new energy technologies that will help to break our dependence on fossil fuels and protect our troops in harm's way. We took a big step backwards, but I will be bringing this fight to the floor."
Combined with the language in the House bill, "this shackles the military's efforts to use biofuels," said Ben Lowe, communications director for Operation Free, an advocacy group that lobbies on energy and national-security issues.
"I hope we won't see the ultra-politicization of these military energy programs," Lowe said. "They've been saving energy and saving lives in the field. It looks like this is taking a successful energy program and turning it into a political fight."
The amendment does not undo the military's broader "Operational Energy Strategy" unveiled last year, a broad effort by senior Defense officials to cut the military's dependence on oil and expand its use of alternative energy. Many troops have lost their lives protecting fuel convoys trucked through Afghanistan, and soaring oil prices drive up the Pentagon's energy bills. But the Republican measures place a big barrier in front of one key piece of meeting that goal-buying or making biofuels.
Inhofe and McCain say the provision is part of what they expect to become a broader attack of the Pentagon's energy program; McCain charges that it is a vehicle for President Obama to advance his clean energy agenda.
Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Inhofe, said: "The DOD seems like one place where the administration can do what it wants. And we've seen a push to spend an amount of money that's just not justified. We believe ... the green agenda of the Obama administration is being imposed on the Department of Defense."
Earlier this week, McCain made similar criticisms in an interview with National Journal, although his remarks came laced with irony: Earlier in his career, McCain was a crusader for clean energy. In 2003, he cosponsored the Senate's first major cap-and-trade bill aimed at reducing global warming, which he said was an urgent national-security priority.