US Senate Airmed Services Committee votes that US military cannot use biofuel, due to price

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted on May 24 to prohibit the US military from buying biofuel. This is only because it is more expensive than conventional fuels.  There had been much hope by the American biofuels industry that the US military would be an early adopting large customer, and get them going. The committee’s majority also voted to stop the Department of Defense from building its own biofuel refinery. However, United Airlines, Boeing, and UOP (part of Honeywell) have joined with the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust to form MASBI, the the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative, They plan to “unlock the Midwest’s economic potential for advanced biofuels ” etc etc. probably from crops. No mention of not competing with food etc, just creating jobs. 


United, Boeing and UOP Join Big Push for Biofuels

 By   (Triple Pundit)

May 27th, 2012

If there are still any doubts that biofuels are ready for the big time, last week’s announcement by United Airlines, Boeing, and UOP (a Honeywell company) should put them to rest. The three industry heavyweights have joined with the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust to form the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative.

If the new initiative – MASBI    [The Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative  Set up May 2012 ] for short – lives up to its name, the result will be a regional plan for the sustainable development of a biofuel economy, rather than a willy-nilly rush to exploit available resources. That’s a pretty big if, so let’s see what the organization can offer in terms of giving commercial biofuels a big boost while ensuring that water conservation, land preservation and other sustainability issues don’t fall by the wayside.  [i.e.  presumably this is growing crops, so potentially competing with food].


Building the aviation biofuel supply chain

United was the first commercial airline in the U.S. to use algae biofuel, and its leadership role in the new initiative confirms that the company is engaged in a focused effort to cement the position of domestically sourced biofuels in its supply chain.

A strong biofuel supply chain has the potential to cushion petroleum fuel price shocks and global market swings that have created so many headaches for the aviation industry.

United’s managing director of Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, Jimmy Samartzis, is eagerly anticipating a better future:

“Our industry is committed to advancing sustainable biofuels, and United is proud to launch MASBIwith our partners to define appropriate solutions to make alternative fuel available at commercial scale, unlock the Midwest’s economic potential for advanced biofuels and secure a sustainable future for aviation.”

Bad timing for biofuels

Unfortunately, some members of Congress chose last week (see below) to throw a wet blanket over the aviation industry’s enthusiasm, as committees in the House and Senate voted to block the Department of Defense from purchasing biofuels. That would deprive the biofuel industry of a key early-adopting customer (the new policy actually prohibits the purchase of alternative fuels that cost more than fossil fuels, but the effect is the same).

The aviation industry group A4A joined with the agriculture industry and other stakeholders to petition the Senate to reconsider its decision to block biofuel purchased by the military, but in the meantime it seems that some members of Congress are not as interested in economic development as they claim to be.

MASBI and the Bioeconomy Blueprint

However, the MASBI announcement also follows close on the unveiling of a more positive development, in the form of a new national economic development plan unveiled by the Obama Administration called the National Bioeconomy Blueprint.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint is designed to create jobs and stimulate investment by using federal resources to speed the transition from fossil fuel dependency into a more sustainable, healthful and diversified mix of fuels, chemicals and other products.

As previously noted in Triple Pundit, the rapid development of a strong bioeconomy is a key element in the Pentagon’s long term national defense strategy. To underscore that relationship, the advisory council of MASBI includes the Department of the Navy along with the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint focuses strongly on sustainability and it’s pretty clear that at least structurally MASBI is set up to follow along the same lines. As for its follow through, that will depend on the organization’s willingness to work with stakeholders, and on the continued transition of federal economic policy toward sustainable development.

MASBI says: “Airlines operating in the Midwest transport more than 234 million passengers and consume nearly three billion gallons of jet fuel annually.”


…  the U.S. aviation industry uses more than 20 billion gallons of fuel each year….



Congress Blocks Use of Alternative Fuels for the Military

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Despite testimony from the Pentagon’s top leaders that energy diversification is a key component of American military and security strategy, the Senate Armed Services Committee  on May 24 voted 13-12 to prohibit the U.S. military from buying biofuel, a plant-based alternative to oil that is currently more expensive, unless or until its price drops to that of oil. The committee’s majority also voted to stop the Department of Defense (DOD) from building its own biofuel refinery. The House of Representatives had approved similar restrictions earlier this month.
In March, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a Democrat, touted to a Senate committee the Navy’s program to increase its use of biofuels as an alternative to oil, while former Navy secretary and senator from Virginia John Warner, a Republican, added that “there’s a clear nexus between our national security and our energy security.”
Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) may agree with Warner’s sentiment, but he calls the Defense Department’s alternative energy programs a sneaky way for Obama “to implement his all-out attack on traditional American energy development—and the military is the one place where he can force it to happen.”
In fact, however, the military has advocated a broad program of investing in alternative energy since the George W. Bush administration. DOD plans to spend $1.4 billion in 2013 to improve energy use in military operations: about 90% of that is to improve efficiency and reduce fuel use, while only 10% is to expand supply by investing in alternative and renewable energy sources. However, the Army has already begun using solar power for its far-flung operations in sunny climes.
Ironically Inhofe, who objected strenuously to what would be a $12 million subsidy to the biofuels industry, voted in March to retain various subsidies to the oil industry, which are worth about $2 billion annually. As AllGov has reported previously, U.S. subsidies to the fossil fuel industry outweigh those to alternative energy by 6 to 1. Since 1989, Inhofe has received more than $1 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Senate Committee Wants to Sink Military’s Biofuels Program (by Robert F. Service, ScienceInsider)
Alternative Fuels Essential to U.S. Defense, Mabus Says (by Bill Bartel, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)
Government Subsidies of Fossil Fuels Outdo Renewable Subsidies 6 to 1 (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Pentagon Goes Solar in War (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)