Firms that won Pentagon contracts had help from former insiders

E&E  • Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two companies that have won controversial Pentagon contracts for biofuels have built their Washington presence using familiar tools: weighty campaign contributions and aggressive lobbying.

Solazyme Inc., a subcontractor on a $12 million contract that supplied the Navy with 450,000 gallons of biofuels for a demonstration last week, has hired senior Clinton administration officials as strategic advisers, according to corporate records (Greenwire, July 19). The company has tapped R. James Woolsey, President Clinton’s CIA director, and former Deputy Energy Secretary T.J. Glauthier.

Drew Littman, a former staffer to Democratic Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota and Barbara Boxer of California, is Solazyme’s in-house lobbyist.

Colorado company Gevo Inc. won a small Air Force biofuels contract that paid $59 per gallon for fuel made by converting sugar into isobutanol. The company paid $360,000 over three years to Green Capital LLC. That firm’s principals are a former congressional aide who worked on energy programs and a former official from the airlines’ trade organization, who pushed for the Air Force to research biofuels.

Investors, officers and employees at both companies have also made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions in recent years, mostly to Democrats.

The Pentagon’s work on biofuels has become embroiled in controversy in recent months as the armed services have paid significantly more for test quantities of the fuels than traditional petroleum fuels cost. Congressional efforts are also under way to halt the Navy’s portion of an inter-agency effort to invest $510 million in building commercial-scale biofuel refineries (Marcus Stern, Reuters, July 22).