On November 28, the Senate voted 62-37 in support of an amendment that would eliminate a provision that prohibits the military from spending money on alternative fuels when they cost more than conventional fuels.

“As one of the largest landowners and energy consumers in the world, our drive is to be more efficient and environmentally sustainable,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a speech in May to the Environmental Defense Fund. “We have to be able to have the potential to transform the nation’s approach to the challenges we are facing in the environment and energy security. We’ve got to look ahead to try to see how we can best achieve that.”

The Pentagon has opposed the provision, which was passed narrowly by the Senate Armed Services Committee by a vote of 13-1 this May.

The United States Senate voted in support of an amendment that would eliminate a prevision that prevents the military from spending on alternative fuels and green technology. This will allow the Pentagon to continue its plans to invest in clean energy. Credit: U.S. Army.

Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo., sponsored the amendment to delete the provision from the defense bill. The Pentagon has been advocating a $1.4 billion budget for next year, which would cover investments in clean energy, such as more efficient engines, solar power, better generators, and hybrid electric drives for ships.

Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have opposed the amendment, stating that the Pentagon cannot afford to spend money on alternative energy projects in a time of defense budget cuts. The amendment required bi-partisan support and eleven Republican senators from states such as Iowa and the Dakotas voted in favor of the amendment.

In recent years, both the Air Force and the Navy have pursued alternative fuel options in order to decrease their dependence on foreign oil. Since 2007, the Air Force has purchased biofuel and synthetic fuels. This summer, the Air Force tested an A-10C Thunderbolt that ran on an alcohol based fuel, Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) which is a cellulosic ethanol. The Navy has also focused on biofuels. This July marked the first time that the Navy used a 50-50 blend of biofuel and conventional fuel in an operational setting.

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