Defense & National Security

Democrats put green energy back into military budget bill

Democrats put green energy back into military budget bill

In a move that could throw a wrench into passage of the bipartisan defense authorization bill, Democrats added an amendment Tuesday that would restore the Pentagon’s ability to invest in expensive green energy sources.

When the House passed the Fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act months ago, members, outraged at stories of $26-per-gallon biofuels, passed an amendment barring the purchase of alternative energy at higher rates than traditional fuel sources. In the Senate markup of the bill in June, an amendment sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) echoed the provision and prohibited the Defense Department from investing in a biofuels refinery.

The House also voted to exempt the Defense Department from a regulation that prohibits federal agencies from using fuel sources with more emissions than traditional fuels, barring the Pentagon from investing in plentiful and domestic high-carbon fuel sources.

On Tuesday, an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) threw that provision right out again.

“It should tell us something that in an era of reduced DoD budgets, our senior leaders remain committed to this (green energy) effort. We should support them in these common sense approaches,” Udall said.

Inhofe, speaking in opposition, cited a Rand Corporation report showing that investment in green alternative fuels had no direct benefit to the Defense Department.

“What we’re doing is trying to experiment in green energy at the expense of our ability to defend America and our readiness,” he said.

The amendment passed 62-37. But the measure may also come at the expense of the defense authorization bill. Both houses have a record of passing the NDAA every year, and both parties have felt a mandate to pass a clean bill that will make it to the president’s desk before the end of the year.

Now, green energy may be a major sticking point when the bill heads to conference committee to sort out differences between the House and Senate versions.

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