Monday, December 18, 2017

Military spending fight hits foreign oil, biofuel

ABOARD THE USS NIMITZ — Some 100 nautical miles northeast of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean, a fleet of Navy fighter jets slings from the deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, leaving thin trails of smoke on the tight runway.

Maneuvers involving several thousand sailors as part of the world's largest naval exercises, was at the center of a growing controversy involving defense spending and foreign oil.

The dozens of air and sea vessels surrounding the Nimitz — including helicopters, fighter jets and destroyer ships — were running on a biofuel blend that can be substituted for traditional fuel without engine modifications.

Navy officials say using the alternative fuel helps the military address weaknesses. Operations that use more than 50 million gallons of fuel each month rely on petroleum, making the U.S. military heavily dependent upon foreign oil. Market volatility causes Navy spending to swing by tens of millions of dollars each time the price of a barrel goes up or down $1.

But the plan has hit a snag — lawmakers who bristle at chasing alternative energy at a time when defense spending is being cut and traditional oil is cheaper.

The House voted 326-90 Thursday on its version of the $608 billion defense spending bill, which cuts $70 million from the Obama administration's request for domestic development of biofuels production.

The Senate Armed Services Committee last month narrowly passed an amendment to its version of the measure to prohibit military spending on alternative fuels if their costs exceed the cost of traditional fossil fuels.

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