|Inhofe Slams DOD for Thinking Ahead|
I believe that America has the opportunity, capability and financial wherewithal to lead the world in the production of alternative forms of electricity and fuel. We already lead the world in energy storage R&D and a concerted effort by government and industry could push us into the lead in other areas, just as it did with electrification and information technologies. But now, shortsighted politicians (I used to call them political leaders, but they have lost the right to that sobriquet) are not only attempting to strangle that baby in the crib, they want to turn back the clock.
DOD is doing R&D on biofuels to determine their impact on their mobility systems and as well as the ability to sustain domestic training operations with a substitute for petroleum. They are doing it because they are required by law. The current energy policy is expressed in two laws (EPAct 2005 and EISA 2007) and two executive orders, (13423 and 13514). They provide sufficient guidance for DOD to create strategy, operational direction and tactical instruction. These, along with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 require DOD to have target purchase, by 2022, of cellulosic ethanol - 16 billion gallons; biomass based diesel - 5 billion gallons; and other biofuels - 15 billion gallons. Not so fast, says the right Horrible Senator from Oklahoma.
In an article in Forbes magazine, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) blasts SecDef Panetta for ensuring that DOD follows the law. Sen. Inhofe accuses Panetta of wasting money on expensive fuels while the President is gutting the DOD by a half trillion dollars over the next ten years. I might be wrong, but I seem to recall that that was an effect of Congress’ failure to trim $1.2 trillion from the Fed budget, which invoked the sequestration clause, also penned by Congress. Gee, Senator, if you and your 99 buddies in the upper house could have issued a budget at all in the last three years, perhaps we could be having a more enlightened discussion. Unfortunately, we cannot.
The version of the NDAA 2013 that came out of the House Armed Services Committee contained provisions to prevent DOD from investing in and deploying low-carbon, renewable fuels. This turns back time. I am sure that will make Senator Inhofe very happy, much the way it would Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But othersare not so pleased.
Nine former flag officers have written to Senators Levin and McCain to express their views on this effort. In their opinion:
We have to find new sources of fuel. As long as the United States is beholden to global energy prices, our country is vulnerable. The Air Force and Army are increasing the fuel efficiency of the vehicles we use to fight, transport troops, and provide support. The Navy is investing in advanced biofuels programs that will enhance its power-projection capability. The Marines are operationalizing common assets like wind and solar power to decrease energy vulnerability. These initiatives have been undertaken in partnerships with American firms and are creating jobs for American workers.
Some Members of Congress, however, oppose these critical programs. They choose to waste time by advocating policies that have already proven to be failures and attack the military for investing in prudent measures that will save lives. Taking control of our energy future would mean preventing future conflicts around the world and protecting Americans here at home.
It is time to secure America with clean energy. All of our civilian leaders must match the military’s commitment and stop putting partisan politics ahead of good policy. We call on Congress to support the Department of Defense as it invests in clean, domestic, alternative sources of energy for the sake of the security of the United States of America.
Since the opposition to DOD’s efforts seem to be coming from the political party that professes to defer to the Generals in matters pertaining to the military, it should be relatively easy to, well, defer to the Generals. Go ask Generals Marty Dempsey and Ray Odierno what they think. I am sure ADM Greenert as well as Generals Amos and Schwartz will give you their professional opinions as well.
Nicole Lederer, Co-Founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (www.e2.org) has called upon her constituency to petition their Senators to oppose this action and to allow DOD to take the prudent action necessary to secure their mission essential energy requirements. As a fellow entrepreneur, the market that DOD represents is enticing. Their commitment will improve the technology, increase private investment and drives down the cost. Think microprocessor. Their change in behavior could impact the society at large. Think racial and gender equality. What is at risk here? Worst case scenario is we identify a dead end path for economic investment. The upside? The Saudi Arabia of biofuels.
If anyone knows the cost for operating a U.S. Navy Battle Group in the Straits of Malacca for a day, please pass that along to me. Right now, Japan and China feel assured in their access to oil because the U.S. insures it. If they do not get oil, America’s economy suffers, so we have to insure their access. What if we develop the technology to create drop in replacement biofuels that we can license to Japan and China? Worst case scenario? China steals it and exploits it. Upside? Petro-dictators can no longer buy off political dissidents with the profits you and I put in their pockets. Ever wonder why there was no Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia?
It is quite possible that I am living in a fool’s paradise, where all men and women have a sense of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The dysfunction of our government, the shortsightedness of business and the lack of commitment from our populace to pay the price of civilization will not dissuade me from my Pollyanna view of the world. But at some point, I will stop arguing with idiots; they just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
For all who are headed to New Orleans next week for the NDIA Environment, Energy Security and Sustainability Conference, see you there. Dan Nolan