The following blog post was originally published in the 25x25 blog and was written by President of the American Council On Renewable Energy, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn.
The Senate should be commended for overwhelmingly voting this week to eliminate harmful restrictions on the U.S. military's efforts to expand its use of biofuels. Two overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the upper chamber now focuses attention on the House of Representatives, where some lawmakers are continuing to insist on language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would prohibit the military – the nation’s biggest user of oil and gasoline ‑ from expanding its use of biofuels.
When House members take up the NDAA over the next couple of weeks of the ongoing lame duck session, some are poised to block what has become a major transformation of our national energy supply, and with it, accompanying economic growth and job gains.
It's not terribly surprising that a recent study commissioned by leading U.S. business executives shows a huge economic boost on the horizon from the military’s plans to expand its use of biofuels in planes, ships and other vehicles. The military has a long, distinguished history of driving innovation and major economic transitions in this country, whether it's in aviation, communications, or even the Internet.
The study released earlier this month by E2, an 800-plus member organization of business executives and investors who advocate sound environmental policy that can lead to economic prosperity, found that the Defense Department's investment in military application of biofuels would generate at least $10 billion in economic activity and create more than 14,000 jobs by 2020. That's a significant jump-start for the biofuels market, and would, in turn, accelerate the adoption of biofuels by commercial airlines, vehicular fleets and others.
More important to this nation's security, the effort, led by the Navy and Air Force, will reduce our military's dependence on mostly-foreign oil by getting as much as 50 percent of its fuel from domestic biofuels by 2020. It's no secret that reducing the military’s use of oil is essential to national security and troop safety, not to mention helping eliminate susceptibility to fuel price spikes.
Current and former U.S. military leaders have worked hard to impress upon Congress the important national security and energy security benefits of the increased use of biofuels by our military forces. Furthermore, the E2 report also highlights the tremendous economic potential of the defense biofuels program – an effort that has already attracted private capital for technological innovation and commercial-scale biorefinery construction, thereby creating geographically-diverse jobs. And it accelerates America's move to a more diverse and secure energy portfolio, a step needed to meet growing energy demand here and abroad.
Now it’s the industry’s turn. It's critical that renewable energy stakeholders reach out to House members and assert their belief in the need for military advancement of homegrown biofuels. Lawmakers must understand that future spending authorizations on sustainable fuels enhance the U.S. military's efforts to keep America safer and, in turn, spur economic and job growth across the country.