Military spending bill includes anti-biofuel provision

By Erin Voegele | June 21, 2016

On June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5293, titled “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017” by a vote of 282 to 138. The bill includes a provision exempting the military from biofuels use.

Prior to the bill’s passage, the National Farmers Union issued a statement indicating the appropriations bill would exempt the military from Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which prohibits federal agencies from making bulk purchases of synthetic fuels with a larger greenhouse gas footprint than traditional petroleum. NFU said the military’s use of biofuels has been a long-standing source of encouragement for new technologies that are held out of transportation fuel markets by exploitative practices of Big Oil.

“Biofuels aid national security by reducing our nation’s foreign energy dependence and contributing to our Administration’s broader climate goals. The recurring attempts to quietly neutralize biofuels through the defense appropriations process are disappointing,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “I am hopeful this provision will be successfully removed in further negotiations over the bill.”

“Section 526 is an important aspect of the Energy Independence and Security Act, one that has tremendous implications for family farmers’ ability to protect food security in a changing climate. I encourage lawmakers to carefully weigh the benefits of biofuels as they consider this provision,” Johnson continued.

The U.S. military, however, is continuing its use of biofuels. One day after the vote, on June 17, the U.S. Navy issued a news release announcing Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Joseph M. Bryan and Chief of the Italian Navy Adm. Guiseppe De Giorgi visited guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) to observe the ship’s role in the Great Green Fleet initiative.

During Maybus’ visit, the Italian navy’s oiler ITS Etna (A5326) fueled the Mason with an alternative fuel blend. According to the Navy, this marked the first time a U.S. Navy warship received biofuels from a partner nation’s naval oiler. Maybus also noted the “$2.26 per gallon cost for biofuel is a competitive price."

"There's really one goal—sustainability," said Mabus in the Navy release. "There are also strategic goals to it. The main reason for doing this is to make us better warfighters and to make us a better Navy. It's to keep the vulnerability away because fuel can be used as a weapon. It's about having options before you get your fuel and what type of fuel you get. It gives us flexibility and it makes us better at what we do."

More information on the refueling is available on the U.S. Navy website.