And that brings us to the 38 senators’ second objection — that the provision in question will hinder “national efforts to develop domestic alternative fuels.” That much is likely true, but it leads to the question: Is it, and should it be, the Pentagon’s job to develop alternative fuels?
According to a report released last week by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on waste and inefficiency in the Defense Department, the Pentagon is actually more active than any other federal agency, including the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, in the renewable energy sphere.
The coming U.S. energy boom’s downward pressure on fossil fuel prices will make alternative fuels unnecessary from a cost perspective. To the extent, then, that legislators are concerned with the legislation’s stance toward renewables, it is less a concern over the military’s effectiveness than a hope that the Pentagon will maintain a steady stream of subsidies for politically fashionable energy projects.
That has implications not just for immediate energy policy and the bill itself, but for the short- and medium-term efforts to trim the Pentagon’s budget. Impending defense sequestration cuts take an across-the-board approach to reducing the nation’s defense budget, meaning cuts will be implemented without regard for strategic priorities.
A reduction in the Pentagon’s renewable energy adventurism provides an avenue to reduce the nation’s military budget by trimming activities that may be better undertaken by agencies whose missions actually include the development of alternative energy technologies.
Lachlan Markay is an investigative reporter for The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.