By Senator Ben Nelson
For states like Nebraska that lead the nation in the production of ethanol and development of other bio fuels, there were some anxious moments in the Senate that would have limited the development and production of bio fuels by the military. Fortunately, calmer heads have prevailed.
The Senate passed its version of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. This ‘must-pass’ legislation is vital to America’s armed forces and national security providing authorization for the Pentagon, pay and benefits for service members, the war in Afghanistan, and national security programs at the Energy Department.
Unfortunately, when this legislation was first reported to the Senate floor, there were two provisions that would unnecessarily limit the Department of Defense’s ability to use and develop alternative fuels despite the Pentagon’s request that Congress support their initiatives to produce advanced bio fuels and build or retrofit bio refineries.
Giving military leaders the ability to develop and employ alternative fuels is crucial to national security, improve the military’s strategic flexibility, and insulate the defense budget against future spikes in the cost of fossil fuels. The U.S. military is the largest single user of oil in the world, consuming more that 355,000 barrels of oil per day. That means that each time the price of a barrel of oil increases by $10, it costs another $1.4 billion. While alternative fuels will not supplant fossil fuels entirely, replacing even a fraction of oil and gas will help insulate DOD from rising global oil prices and market volatility.
As such, I was proud to support two amendments introduced by Senators Mark Udall and Kay Hagan reinstating language allowing the Defense Department to purchase and develop new energy technologies and alternative fuels giving the military the ability to pursue domestic bio fuels and reduce foreign oil use. These commonsense amendments are vital not just for our national security, but Nebraska and our nation’s economy as well.
Increased use of bio fuels for the military would help Nebraska’s ethanol industry, which has the capacity to produce more than 2.1 billion gallons of ethanol annually, estimated to be worth more than $6 billion to the state’s economy.
These provisions will also further the development of the next generation of advanced biofuels. Technologies towards this next generation are already being produced in Nebraska, at facilities such as Novozymes advanced manufacturing plant in Blair. In May 2012, Novozymes inaugurated this facility, the largest enzyme plant dedicated to biofuels in the United States. Funded with $200 million in private investment, the plant created 100 career positions and 400 construction jobs, and specializes in enzymes for both the first generation and advanced biofuel markets.
Now that the Senate has reinstated the Pentagon’s bio fuels efforts, I am hopeful we can quickly reconcile our differences with the House, so we can get this crucial legislation to the President’s desk. As we move the process forward, I am confident my colleagues will continue to stand behind America’s military and our economy by supporting DOD’s ability to develop and employ alternative fuels.