Last week, the US Senate Armed Services Committee passed a resolution for the Senate’s FY2013 budget that will significantly curtail the Department of Defence’s (DOD) biofuel procurement plans for next year. The US Senate resolution follows a similar blow to DOD’s biofuels support levied by the US House Armed Services Committee in its version of the FY2013 budget earlier this month. The House budget prohibits the DOD from buying biofuels if they are more expensive than their fossil-fuel equivalents and the budget also exempts the DOD from the alternative fuel requirements of the 2007 EISA. The Senate resolution last week incorporates both of these provisions from the House budget while going one step further in explicitly prohibiting the DOD from funding the development or construction of any kind of biorefinery unless the DOD receives a specific legal authorization to do so (which may be unlikely).
Under both the House and Senate resolutions, the DOD does retain the ability to purchase small quantities of biofuels at “competitive” market prices, but only for the purposes of certifying new military-grade 50-50 fuel blends. This provision may well be DOD’s only choice for keeping its green energy programs alive next year, even as the Navy prepares to launch its showcase demonstration of Admiral Mabus’s “Great Green Fleet” at the end of June: an entire carrier strike force using 50-50 biofuel blends will conduct air and surface maneuvers with international partners near the Hawaiian islands.
Many in the biofuel industry have been looking to the DOD’s green procurement initiatives as a potentially important market for the emerging advanced biofuels industry, but these new resolutions cast doubt on whether military procurement can be counted on as an initial market for commercial scale-up in the coming years.
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