The Navy has been one of the leading advocates for creating a greener Armed Forces, but a recent move by Republicans in Congress may make it more difficult to make eco-friendly changes. The House Armed Services Committee passed a ban on purchasing alternative fuels that cost more than traditional fossil fuels, something which will put an end to the Navy running its fleet on biofuels, Wired magazine reports.
The ban was put in place as a way to cut costs, not as an affront against renewable energy – but it does seemingly throw a wrench in one of the biggest priorities of the Navy. Additionally, it could seriously hurt the biofuel industry, which received a lot of its business from the Pentagon.
"I understand that alternative fuels may help our guys in the field, but wouldn't you agree that the thing they'd be more concerned about is having more ships, more planes, more prepositioned stocks?" Rep. Randy Forbes told Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in February, according to the publication. "Shouldn't we refocus our priorities and make those things our priorities instead of advancing a biofuels market?"
Mabus was quick to counter that investing in biofuels has long term benefits. In particular, he said that the cost of biofuel is likely to decrease significantly in the coming years as research develops. Additionally, given the uncertainty in gas prices, relying purely on fossil fuels could end up costing the Navy even more, Wired reports.
The plans Mabus had for the Navy included running half the fleet on nonfossil fuels by 2020, according to CNN. The first (and perhaps last) steps taken will be on display this summer, when the Navy debuts its green carrier strike group.
The purchasing of biofuels is not the only area of contention with the latest defense spending bill. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the current incarnation recently passed by the House Armed Services Committee because the budget came in $4 billion above where he recommended it be.
The disagreement over the budget even led to a tense conversation between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Rep. Buck McKeon, according to Military Times. Panetta maintains that the bill may hurt the Armed Forces because it will result in across-the-board budget cuts, but McKeon claims reducing the budget any more could lower the country's national security and make it difficult to carry out important missions.