Senate lets the Navy’s ‘green fleet’ sail on

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Senate defeated a proposed amendment that would have transferred money from the Navy’s biofuels program to increase the Defense Department’s operations and maintenance funding.

“I have been arguing for weeks that cuts to the budget can be made in a smarter way. In light of all of the waste, duplication, and lower priority spending in the federal government, I am confident that we can make more sensible cuts in spending than severely reducing the Army’s operations and maintenance work,” said Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who offered the amendment.

The Senate rejected the amendment in a 40-59 vote which would have redirected $60 million from military biofuels testing.

The military’s use of biofuels came under fire from Republicans last year who argued the fuel was expensive and inefficient.

“Given tightening budgets, it makes little sense to waste money on inefficient, overpriced energy sources when we could use those same funds to help support critical maintenance services for the warfighter,” Toomey added.

The biofuels used in a Navy demonstration last year ran at about $27 per gallon, compared to about $3.50 per gallon for conventional fuels used by the military, reports the New York Times.

However, Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, said spending on biofuels was only 7 percent of the $1.6 billion the military argued that the biofuel spending was only a small portion of what the Defense Department requested to promote better energy usage in the field.

The Navy and members of Congress argued that over reliance on oil makes the military more vulnerable to price shocks, which could cause the Pentagon to divert funds from other vital areas of national defense.

“Rising fuel costs result in less training, deferred maintenance and reduced operational capability,” Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall said on the Senate floor. “That’s a terrible triad if there ever was one.”

However, defense experts aren’t completely convinced of the efficacy of spending money on biofuels during tough budgetary times.

“Until such time as biofuels are as cost-effective as alternative sources of fuel for the Navy, the simple and compelling logic is for the government to cut expenditures on biofuel programs,” William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at Tufts University, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Facing a stagnant economy, high unemployment, annual trillion dollar deficits, fiscal cliffs, and sequestration, the highest priority for the United States is to stop spending on programs that are likely to be a waste of taxpayer money,” Martel added.

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