Industry asks lawmakers to strike defense authorization provisions

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Biofuel supporters are asking lawmakers to jettison two provisions in the House defense authorization bill that would limit federal investment in biofuels and allow the military to purchase alternative fuels with greater greenhouse gas emissions than traditional petroleum.

The letters continue the perennial conflict between the biofuel industry and Republican members of the Armed Services Committee.

At issue are two provisions added to the House authorization bill via amendments by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) during the full committee markup (E&E Daily, April 30).

In separate letters to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which are conferencing on the defense authorization, seven biofuel industry stakeholders outlined their case for striking the provisions.

One letter criticized language that would prevent the Department of Defense from entering into any contracts “for the planning, design, refurbishing or construction of a biofuels refinery” without congressional approval.

The Pentagon, in conjunction with the departments of Energy and Agriculture, has previously relied on the Defense Production Act to award three companies $70 million each to help build biofuel refineries (Greenwire, May 22, 2013).

If enacted, the groups wrote, the language would “put at risk the current investment.”

“We urge you to allow the Department of Defense to continue its work in a public-private effort to develop cost-competitive supplies of advanced biofuels to help reduce the military’s reliance on a volatile global oil market,” the letter says.

The letter is signed by nine organizations: the Advanced Biofuels Association; Airlines for America; the Air Line Pilots Association; the Algae Biomass Organization; the American Farm Bureau Federation; the Biotechnology Industry Organization; Growth Energy; the National Farmers Union; and the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate.

The same nine groups sent another letter to the House and Senate Armed Services committees asking that the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act be protected in the final defense authorization.

As written, the House bill would strike Section 526 of the law, which prevents the federal government from buying alternative fuels with a larger greenhouse gas footprint than traditional petroleum.

In their letter, the groups said Section 526 was integral to spurring Defense Department efforts to find cleaner fuel sources, which in turn have helped support a domestic biofuel industry.

“These alternative fuels are creating a new and vibrant sector in the U.S. economy, fostering jobs, businesses and economic benefits, particularly in rural America,” the letter says. “Repeal of existing policy would be a significant blow to this burgeoning industry and result in uncertainty that could cause investors to withdraw from the sector.”