Sen. Mark Udall talks military biofuels on Platts Energy Week

By Erin Voegele | May 30, 2012

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., appeared on the Memorial Day edition of Platts Energy Week to talk about federal funding of the military’s biofuel initiatives. His appearance came following the May 24 announcement by the Senate Committee on Armed Services that provisions undermining military efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil were included in its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. Udall is a member of the committee.

During his appearance, Udall stressed that he thinks the Pentagon should continue to invest in biofuels. While federal lawmakers have argued the biofuel initiatives pursued by the U.S. Department of Defense are too expensive, Udall argued that investing in biofuels now will result in lower fuel costs down the line. It is a given that oil prices will increase in the future, he said. Having a competitor in the form of biofuels will be important, he added.

According to information released by Platts, the Navy paid $26 per gallon for biobased jet fuel in late 2011. That is a significant premium over the market price of $4 per gallon for traditional jet fuel. While the Navy predicts the premium would drop to under $6 per gallon by 2020, the price for biobased jet will remain significantly higher than petroleum fuel.

While Udall said those numbers should not be ignored, he said looking at history and trends indicate our nation would be well-served over the long-term by making these investments. “I am convinced that over time the price of these biofuels is going to drop dramatically,” he said. “Not every bet pays off, but I am convinced this is the right thing to do.”

The DOD’s healthy budget is one reason why Udall noted the biofuels initiatives should be funded. National security is at the top of everybody’s lists, he said. “It would be shortsighted in my opinion…to cut off this work that the military is doing right now,” he said, noting that Navy leadership in particular has been very supportive of biofuels. “Let’s give [those leaders] what they are asking to have,” Udall said. “They know the price of being dependent on fossil fuels, particularly those that are produced in a foreign setting.”

Udall also spoke about the importance of balancing costs and opportunities. We need to provide oversight, he said, but I really believe this is a frontier that we have to embrace as America.   



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