House defense panel votes to block Navy from buying biofuels
An F/A-18 from the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron is fueled with a 50-50 blend of biofuel and jet fuel. Experimenting with biofuels is part of the military's push to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
Congressional Republicans have thrown a wrench into the Navy's plans to get half its energy needs from alternative fuel sources by 2020, Wired magazine reported, voting to effectively ban the military from purchasing biofuels.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced in August that the service would invest $170 million over three years to develop alternatives to fossil fuels to power its ships and aircraft.
In December, the Navy bought 450,000 gallons of biofuel, the largest-ever single biofuel purchase by the U.S. government. The $12 million purchase was enough to operate a carrier group during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, international maritime exercise.
Biofuels cost about four times as much as fossil fuels, but Mabus has said the environmental and homeland security benefits justify the additional cost. “We simply buy too much petroleum from potentially or actually volatile places,” he said in a 2010 energy report.
Republicans on the House Armed Services disagree. The panel voted on May 9 to ban the Defense Department from making or buying an alternative fuel that costs more than a “traditional fossil fuel," Wired reported. While the measure does not ban biofuels outright, it effectively blocks the military from purchasing them. Biofuel industry insiders told Wired's Danger Room blog that their products would never be as cheap as petroleum-based ones.