Senators renew bid to repeal military’s high-carbon fuel ban 

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2015

Three senators have renewed their attempt to repeal an 8-year-old law that prohibits the government from buying carbon-intensive fuel.

The “North American Alternative Fuels Act,” S. 1026, sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), would repeal Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

Section 526 has been a frequent target of Barrasso and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), both of whom are from big coal-producing states, because it bans the government from purchasing alternative fuels with a larger greenhouse gas footprint than that of traditional petroleum, including coal fuels made without carbon sequestration (E&E Daily, June 7, 2013).

Some fossil fuel supporters also worry that Section 526 would ban fuels made from oil shale and oil sands, though a federal judge in Virginia dismissed a 2011 lawsuit from environmentalists that questioned the Pentagon’s use of crude from Canadian oil sands (Greenwire, Aug. 3, 2011).

Barrasso and co-sponsors Manchin and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) cited national security concerns for supporting a Section 526 repeal, noting that the Department of Defense is the largest energy user in the United States.

“Our nation’s military should have access to any and all fuel sources it needs to achieve its mission,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Instead of giving preference to oil imported from overseas, Washington should look to North America coal, oil shale and oil sands, all of which provide an affordable, abundant and alternative source of fuel. In addition to increasing cost effectiveness options for the government, it will also increase America’s energy security.”

The American Petroleum Institute was quick to voice its support for the repeal, calling Section 526 “bad for America.”

“Prohibiting the use of one of the most secure sources of oil — Canadian oil sands — jeopardizes our national security and simply defies logic,” API Senior Director of Federal Relations Khary Cauthen said. “As American forces continue [to] combat terrorists abroad, the Pentagon must have the versatility to secure and develop fuel from our strongest ally, Canada.”

The bill has been sent to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.