Pentagon’s Push for Clean Energy Put on Pause

On Friday May 25th, 2012 the Senate Armed Services Committee prohibited the military from spending money on alternative fuels if the cost exceeds traditional fossil fuels


With more than 50 million gallons of fuel being consumed by the military each month in Afghanistan it comes to no surprise the Defense Department is facing issues keeping up with the demands. The Defense Department is the nation’s largest consumer of energy, spending approximately $15 billion last year on fuel for tanks, ships, aircraft, and other operations alone. Now suffering the effects of higher fuel costs, the department is currently facing larger budget cuts while staring down at a $3 billion deficit. (1)

In light of this growing problem, the Pentagon has moved to invest $1.4 billion of next year’s budget in clean energy programs for the Navy and Air Force that will use more like the great green fleet initiative. They view the push to procure alternative fuels as an opportunity to decrease American reliance on fossil fuels, thereby alleviating geopolitical instability and threats to our interests aboard. (1)

Other military leaders are suggesting a greater reliance on alternative sources like bio-fuels to operate aircraft and ships in the next decade to ease dependence on foreign oil.

“Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy’s mobility,” said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, which leads the Navy’s Task Force Energy. “It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum.(2)

“First and foremost, energy conservation extends tactical range of our forces while also preserving precious resources. Our goal, as a Navy, is to be an ‘early adopter’ of new technologies that enhance national security in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Cullom.(2)

Yet despite rendering support from the White House, votes were cast by the Senate Armed Services Committee that resulted in a 13-12 decision to prohibit the military from spending money on alternative fuels if the cost exceeds traditional fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. The committee also voted to block Pentagon construction of a bio-fuels refinery or any other facility to refine bio-fuels. (1)

But, this was not entirely unexpected. The moves by the Senate panel follow a bill passed earlier by the house that challenged the Pentagon’s investment in clean energy altogether.

These amendments limiting Pentagon investments in clean energy were pushed by Senator Jim Inhofe and Senator John McCain who both took up strong stances.

“Secretary Panetta has a real war to win, and he should not be wasting time perpetrating President Obama’s global warming fantasies or his ongoing war on affordable energy,” said Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma. “At a time when the defense budget is being significantly reduced and the Pentagon is forced to make every dollar stretch even further, it is ludicrous for the DOD to spend billions of dollars on green energy projects. Instead, they should be using those funds on people, training and equipment.” (1)

“In a tough budget climate for the Defense Department, we need every dollar to protect our troops on the battlefield with energy technologies that reduce fuel demand and save lives,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “Spending $26 per gallon of bio-fuel is not consistent with that goal. The committee’s action corrects this misplacement of priorities.” (1)

In addition to barring the military from buying alternative fuels their version of the defense bill also exempts “the Pentagon from some requirements under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which is designed to increase production of clean renewable fuels. The law also stipulates that if a federal department or agency uses alternative fuels, they cannot produce more greenhouse gases than regular petroleum.” (1)

So what does the future look like for the Department of Defense new initiative? As of now, the White House is in pursuit to veto the House bill.

What are your opinions on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s decision? Please weigh in your opinion in the comments below.


(1) Zelman, Joanna. “Senate Armed Services Committee Reins In Pentagon On Alternative Fuel Spending.” The Huffington Post., 26 May 2012. Web. 28 May 2012. <>

(2) “Navy Sailing Toward Great Green Fleet.” United States Navy. Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs, 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 27 May 2012. <>.


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