Although a relationship between the Department of Defense and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) seems an unlikely marriage, there is method to the madness. Unbeknownst to many, the DoD is a huge biofuel supporter and biofuel customer and plays a critical role in research and development for next-generation biofuels. The DoD goal, ultimately, is to introduce the biofuels into the mainstream American market.
However, despite the potentially successful DoD biofuel program, it is at risk for being written out of new legislation. In spring 2012, Congressional Republicans attempted to reject a bill that would allow the military from buying biofuels because they were more expensive than fossil fuels. They also attempted to disallow the DoD from building its own biorefineries.
Thankfully, the Obama Administration circumvented the Republican’s short -sighted attempt to save money and to protect the fossil fuel industry. The Administration, invoking an obscure pre 1950s Defense Production Act, initiated a $62 million biofuel initiative for the military.
Understanding the long-term implications of biofuel research, the Obama Administration understood that a growing biofuel economy would positively impact rural economic development and would lead to sustainable conditions in already resource-needy rural communities. In fact, calculations demonstrate that at least $20 billion would be generated and 17,000 jobs would result from military biofuel initiatives.
The Airforce is currently working with the Army and Coast Guard on its own biofuel program.
To further existing research, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Navy, Department of Energy, and Department of Agriculture has been signed, with the Navy listed as the primary stakeholder and customer. The Navy will retain the longstanding relationship with the biofuel company Biodico in order to build a cost-competitive Navy biorefinery that would then sell biofuel back to the Navy.
Since the US military is the biggest proponent of the biofuel industry, there is a lot to lose by eliminating the program. Gone would be the large-scale impetus for mainstreaming biofuel. If any organization has the ability to advocate for biofuel, it is the DoD.
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The National Academies of Sciences of both the United States and Germany have figured out that biofuels are a dead end. They are actually huge parasites of fossil fuel energy, which provides their fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, farm machinery fuel, processing plant energy, enzyme feedstock, and hydrotreatment hydrogen. Only about 20% of the energy in corn ethanol is from the sun; the rest is stolen from conventional energy sources. It is worse for more exotic biofuels. The Germans and the WHO and the UNFAO have recommended that all G20 nations abandon all biofuel mandates because of competition with food. The US National Research Council just this month released a report highlighting the unsustainability of algae as biofuel. This whole house of cards is coming down eventually, but meanwhile the US military is being used as a political pawn in a game of graft rewarding campaign bundlers and corporate welfare for Archer Daniels Midland and others in the corn belt. The ultimate irony is that all this wasteful conversion of fossil fuel energy into biofuels actually accelerates the use of fossil fuels, increases the release of CO2 and N2O greenhouse gases, irreversibly damages ecosystems through land use change, competes with food production, increases eutrophication of our water supply and other environmental damage from agrichemical and nitrate runoff, and harms the US economy by reducing the EROI of our fuels and increasing our national debt. Remember the names of the people from Al Gore to Steven Chu to Ray Mabus to Tom Vilsack to Dennis McGinn who are pushing this agenda so they can get the credit for the damages when the final verdict comes in.