Groups lobby Congress to support military biofuels initiatives

By Erin Voegele | May 09, 2012

Several biofuels associations and supporters are continuing to advocate for federal support of biobased aviation fuels. The Advanced Biofuels Association, the Algal Biomass Organization, Airlines for America, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Natural Farm Bureau Federation recently issued letters to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and Appropriations Defense Subcommittees asking them to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s commitment to accelerate the production of biobased fuels for use in military jets, ships and vehicles.

The letter stresses that the adoption of advanced drop-in biofuels will help both the DOD and the entire nation achieve broader national security objectives. “U.S. access to the world’s oil supplies is not guaranteed,” said the organizations in the letter. “Continued reliance on foreign oil puts U.S. troops at risk of supply disruptions during military or humanitarian missions. Moreover, the oil market is unpredictable and the price per barrel of oil often has dramatic fluctuations, which wreaks havoc on military budgets.”

The letter further points out that budget shortfalls associated with fuel price spikes force military leaders to make tough decisions. This can include asking Congress for supplemental resources, which can be difficult to secure in tough budget times. It could also mean cutting back on steaming hours and flight training.

According to the groups, financial arguments against the use of biofuels are diminishing. In the letter they point out that the per-gallon cost of test quantities of advanced biofuels under Navy contracts has declined more than 90 percent over the past two years, and will continue to decline as these technologies scale to commercial production. “DOD’s efforts to reduce use of foreign oil and increase use of American biofuels can provide more certainty for military fuel purchases and therefore reduce the department’s massive operational cost overruns,” said the group in the correspondence.

Regarding the Memorandum of Understanding that the DOE, USDA and U.S. DOE entered last year to pledge $510 million in partnership with the private sector to support the commercialization of advanced biofuels, the groups point out the purpose of the MOU is consistent with history. They noted the military has worked with Congress in the past to develop and deploy innovative technologies that improved national security and strengthened military operations. Some examples include the domestic production of silicon carbide ceramics for use in nuclear reactors, indium phosphide and gallium arsenide for use in lasers and semiconductors and aluminum and titanium for weapons systems.

“DOD and Congress are poised yet again to strengthen security by working with American farmers and industry to tackle production and cost barriers that will help diversify the military and national fuel supply,” said the associations in the letter. “We look forward to working with Congress on these and other DOD energy policy priorities, and ask you to support the MOU.” 


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