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.