Pentagon awards fourth contract to Colo. company

Source: Annie Snider, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013

The Pentagon this week awarded another contract under the first phase of its controversial interagency biorefineries program to a Colorado company.

The program — a joint effort of the Departments of Defense, Energy and Agriculture — awarded $4.1 million to Red Rock Biofuels, a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company, to develop plans for cost-competitive, advanced biofuels refineries. The government funds will be matched by $5 million in private investment, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said by email.

Combined with the contracts awarded by the Pentagon last month, the program has now awarded $20.1 million in government funding to be matched by $22.6 million from the private sector (Greenwire, May 28). The second phase of the program would support refinery construction with as much as $180 million in funding from DOE and DOD, if fully funded by Congress.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), one of the strongest proponents of the defense biofuels program, yesterday lauded the award to a firm from his state.

“Red Rock Biofuels’ innovative technology shows how the development of cost-effective biofuels can create jobs and make our nation more secure,” Udall said. “I look forward to seeing the results of this contract and continuing to fight to increase domestic energy production, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower costs to the American taxpayer.”

Udall successfully led the effort last year to strip two provisions aimed at curtailing the military’s biofuels program from the 2013 defense policy bill on the Senate floor.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, however, questioned the biofuels spending last month as he grappled with implementing the cuts mandated under sequestration. Under pressure from the White House, he quietly pushed forward with the program, but congressional opponents have pointed to Hagel’s hesitation in their efforts to block the program this year.

The House last week approved its 2014 defense policy bill with provisions that would block further investment by the Pentagon in the $510 million biorefineries program and prevent the military from purchasing alternative fuels for regular use until they reach cost parity with conventional fuels. The White House called out these provisions and one that would overturn a 2007 ban on the government purchase of carbon-intensive fuels in its veto threat against the bill (E&ENews PM, June 14).

In the Senate, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) tweaked his version of the amendment to block the military’s investment in the program so that the decision on whether to move forward would rest with Hagel. The amendment failed during committee markup, though, by a vote of