House Republicans nix military’s alternative fuel program in FY 2013 NDAA

SOURCE: U.S. Air Force / Samuel King Jr.

The House-approved National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 contained two little-noticed provisions that would eliminate funding for and prohibit the military from purchasing alternative fuel. 

SOURCE: U.S. Air Force / Samuel King Jr.

The provisions appeared on pages 90 and 91 of the 996-page House Resolution 4310, which passed the House by a vote of 299 to 120. If adopted by the Senate, the provisions would severely undercut the energy conservation efforts by the Department of Defense, which is one of the world’s largest consumer of energy.

Under the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, Sections 313 and 314 would (1) exempt the military from having to comply with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require all federal agencies to reduce petroleum consumption by 20% and increase alternative fuel consumptions by 10% between 2005 and 2015 and (2) prohibited the Pentagon from purchasing alternative fuel if it costs more than traditional fossil fuel.

“The committee commends the Department of Defense for its emphasis on energy reductions, investments in renewable projects that result in long-term savings, and more efficient processes that reduce demand for fuel consumption,” according to the House Armed Services Committee report dated May 11, 2012. “The committee is, however, concerned by the lack of visibility into the annual investments in energy and expenditures on fuel.”

Recognizing that military’s dependence on fossil fuel can be “costly, vulnerable to disruption, and a burden on Warfighters”, the Pentagon in March released its Operational Energy Implementation Plan to increase efficiency, reduce wasteful consumption, and diversify the military’s energy sources “to have a more assured supply of energy for military missions.”

Part of the strategy includes use of alternative fuels. Under the DOD’s plan, the Air Force is working on adopting the use of 50/50 of JP-8 alternative fuel for aircraft use with the goal of purchasing 387 million gallons of the alternative fuel per year by 2016. The Navy’s goal is to use alternative fuel for 50% of its energy consumption, which would eventually require 300 million of biofuel by 2020.

However, the DOD’s ambitious energy security goals could be impeded by Republicans in Congress as demonstrated by Sections H.R. 4310.

The House amendment to block the DOD from buying alternative fuel was proposed by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), both of whom have received large campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. (The oil and gas industry is ranked #2 and #3 out of the top 5 industries that have contributed, respectively, to Conaway and Thornberry’s re-election campaigns in the 2011-2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Conaway and Thornberry are outspoken critics of the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce reliance on traditional fossil oil.

In February, Conaway attacked President Barack Obama’s proposal to ramp up the military’s energy conservation efforts, which the President had announced in his State of the Union address in January.

Criticizing the President’s defense spending proposal, Conaway asked, “Are energy conservation projects the most prudent way to spend it? I am not sure, especially given the U.S. Navy’s recent agreement to buy 450,000 gallons of biofuels at $15 a gallon – four times the price of traditional fuel.”

Read more: Another missed opportunity to improve U.S. energy security

But Conaway’s argument doesn’t take into account the billions in federal subsidies and tax breaks given to Big Oil companies to keep keep fossil fuel prices low.

It’s also important to bear in mind that Republican lawmakers have repeatedly opposed efforts to give similarly generous subsidies and tax benefits to fund the development and advancement of alternative energy, including biofuel, resulting in higher prices than traditional fossil fuel.


Members of the House Armed Services Committee who voted to nix funding for alternative fuels purchased by the Department of Defense (May 9, 2012): 

Excerpt of Sections 313 and 314 of H.R. 4130 “National Defense Authorization Act of 2013” (pages 90-91):


Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110–140; 42 U.S.C. 17142) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘‘This section 2 shall not apply to the Department of Defense.’’.


(a) LIMITATION.—Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available during fiscal year 2013 for the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended for the production or purchase of any alternative fuel if the cost of producing or purchasing the alternative fuel exceeds the cost of producing or purchasing a traditional fossil fuel that would be used for the same purpose as the alternative fuel.

(b) EXCEPTION.—Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense may purchase such limited quantities of alternative fuels as are necessary to complete fleet certification for 50/50 blends. In such instances, the Secretary shall purchase such alternative fuel using competitive procedures and ensure the best purchase price for the fuel.


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2 Comments on “House Republicans nix military’s alternative fuel program in FY 2013 NDAA

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