Baucus, Tester urge leadership to protect domestic fuel alternatives in defense bill

Baucus and Tester said provisions in the Defense Authorization bill, added in committee, would limit the military's ability to purchase American-made fuel, which they said would harm job growth, especially in their state, where biofuels are produced.

"Powering our military with American-made energy makes our country safer and our economy stronger," Baucus said. "Tying our hands and forcing the American military to depend on foreign oil is short-sighted and dangerous. Instead, we need to give our commanders the flexibility to power our military with homegrown energy ... that supports jobs right here in America."

A bipartisan group of 38 senators, including Tester and Baucus, sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a letter late last week requesting a vote on the defense bill, but also expressing support for domestic fuel alternative programs in the Department of Defense (DOD).

“DOD is the largest single user of oil in the world, consuming more than 355,000 barrels of oil per day in Fiscal Year 2011,” the letter stated. “Despite increased domestic production of traditional fossil fuels, rising global oil prices and market volatility caused DOD’s fuel bill to rise to more than $19 billion in Fiscal Year 2011. … Alternative fuels will not supplant fossil fuels entirely; however, replacing even a fraction of the fuel consumed by DOD with domestic alternative fuels, has the potential to advance U.S. national security, improve strategic flexibility, and insulate the defense budget against future spikes in the cost of fossil fuels.”

Reid tried to bring the Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, up for consideration before the Senate left for Thanksgiving break, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is filibustering the bill until he gets a vote on his amendment. Paul is pushing for a vote on an amendment reaffirming opposition to the indefinite detention of American citizens, but other senators had not agreed to take up that amendment. The defense authorization bill funds and directs U.S. military operations.

Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.),  Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) also signed the letter.

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