WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Wednesday gave the green light to the Pentagon's investment in green energy.
By a vote of 62-37 on Wednesday, the Senate backed an amendment that would delete a provision in the defense bill prohibiting the military from spending money on alternative fuels if the cost exceeded traditional fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. The Pentagon has opposed the provision that a sharply divided Senate Armed Services Committee added in May.
The Navy and Air Force have pushed to use more biofuels to operate its aircraft and ships, with military leaders suggesting a greater reliance on alternative sources in the next decade to ease dependence on foreign oil.
"It should tell us something that in an era of reduced Defense Department budgets, our senior leaders remain fully committed to this effort. We should support them in these commonsense approaches," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sponsor of the amendment.
The strong bipartisan vote reflected the growing business of alternative fuels in states such as Iowa and Kansas as well as the Dakotas as 11 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in backing the measure. Two Democrats from coal-producing states — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jim Webb of Virginia — voted against the amendment.
The Senate finally began work Wednesday on the far-reaching, $631 billion defense policy bill for next year — six months after the Armed Services Committee acted on the legislation and the House passed its version. The bill authorizes money for weapons, ships, aircraft and a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel.
The total is $4 billion less than the House-passed bill, and House-Senate negotiators will have to work out the difference in the closing days of the year.
During the debate, Udall pointed out that the Defense Department consumes approximately 330,000 barrels of oil a day and this year, the military has already spent $15 billion on fuel. Based on increased oil prices, the amount is $2.5 billion more than the department had planned and another month remains.
To deal with the rising costs and reliance on foreign oil, the department is exploring alternative fuels.
The Pentagon is pushing for $1.4 billion in next year's budget for investments in clean energy, including hybrid electric drives for ships, more efficient engines, better generators and solar power.