Government can’t afford pricey ‘green fuel’

Randy Duncan Retired Navy Captain
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The U.S. faces significant national security challenges.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are anything but state secrets. Its leaders’ desire to defy us and our allies is creating regional instability that will compound should Iran make good on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Considering that our nation and military run predominately on oil, this instability could have dramatic economic and security impacts on the United States. America is far from being energy independent, and we wear our overreliance on foreign oil around our neck like a boat anchor.

It is clear, then, that the federal government must dispense with political maneuvering and pursue policies that will secure our energy future. With a potential Middle East political crisis on the horizon, our priorities must be crystal clear.

That is perhaps what is most disturbing about the Department of Defense’s recent purchase and delivery of 450,000 gallons of alternative “green” fuel to use in Navy ships and aircraft. The price of that fuel: $27 per gallon. That number is not a misprint — the Pentagon paid nearly $30 per gallon for those 450,000 gallons of renewable fuel, even though marine diesel fuel could easily have been purchased at less than $3.50 per gallon.

In today’s fiscally challenging environment, American taxpayers deserve an answer to the most obvious question: Why on earth would we pay nearly eight times the going cost of fuel, particularly when such a purchase has little or no effect on our national defense?

Our politicians — Democrats and Republicans — have done little to address the danger of our dependency on foreign oil. Too often, solutions to this serious problem are used as fodder for campaign advertisements and one-liners. The Navy’s recent purchase of “green” energy is but the latest example.

The U.S. military — the largest consumer of oil in the country — is leading the way in testing and certifying fuel alternatives. Strategically speaking, the military should be looking for better ways to provide the fuels our ships, tanks and jets use on a daily basis. Advanced biofuels could be one investment for the Navy to consider. But paying nearly $30 per gallon for green energy is simply unacceptable.

This is especially true now. With our national debt at more than $15.8 trillion, the federal government is rightly seeking ways to rein in excessive spending. One potential, yet ill-advised, solution is a package of across-the-board defense cuts known as sequestration.

Several major defense contractors have already indicated that looming program cuts resulting from sequestration may require them to hand out tens of thousands of pink slips. In a recent report, George Mason University professor Stephen Fuller predicted that sequestration would cost the U.S. economy some 2.14 million jobs next year alone.

Which brings us back to the Navy’s $30 per gallon biofuels.

The best way to stave off the defense sequestration ax is for members of Congress to take out a budget scalpel and rid the defense budget of unnecessary expenditures. The Navy’s superfluous spending on green fuel is a good place to start.

There is virtually no way to defend the Navy’s biofuels program at a time when the federal government must make every defense dollar count. As Senator John McCain has said, “adopting a ‘green agenda’ for national defense of course is a terrible misplacement of priorities.” Common sense tells us what we need to do: pay the bills we have and not incur additional costs by overpaying for green fuel for the Department of Defense.

If this misguided defense spending continues, our leaders in Washington will sail the U.S.S. National Economy over a financial cliff of Grand Canyon proportions. Make no mistake: There will be a very loud and painful thud when that ship hits the bottom of the canyon. Real American lives and businesses will be hurt.

Randy Duncan is a retired Navy captain who served at the Defense Missile and Space Intelligence Center and the Defense Intelligence Agency.