Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.) introduced amendment 3095, which passed on a 54-41 vote. She said the military’s reliance on oil subjects it to price shocks.
Hagan said the Defense Production Act is essential for developing a domestic energy industry that could unchain the military from oil and make budgeting more predictable.
“Cost overruns could force the military to curtail training and less urgent operations — resulting in increased risk to future missions. Developing a commercially viable biofuels industry could help DOD diversify its fuel sources and reduce the risk of energy volatility,” Hagan said on the floor Thursday.
The biofuels the Defense Production Act supports are made from non-edible feedstocks, such as algae and switchgrass. Advocates say those fuels could provide a sustainable way to power the nation’s vehicle fleet.
But those fuels have not reached commercial scale, and many lawmakers are calling on the government to abandon the technology.
Production of advanced biofuels has barely made a dent in targets established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That has made the fuels, and the mandate that promotes their production, the subject of criticism from the petroleum industry and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The biofuels community says the global recession stunted investment in those technologies. It contends advanced refineries are just now starting to reach commercial production levels.
Agriculture Department support has been key for scaling up those refineries. Agriculture has devoted funding and research to biofuels through other programs as a way to create rural jobs.
Still, some Republican senators said the military should not be a venture capitalist for energy technologies. Sen. James InhofeJames InhofeRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate GOP senator: EPA 'brainwashing our kids' A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Okla.) said such spending deserves greater scrutiny with $500 billion of defense cuts slated for the next 10 years as part of sequestration.
“[The Navy’s] operation and readiness funds are stretched to a maximum,” Inhofe said. “If you keep giving out a 100 million dollars here and there, that’s coming out of our readiness.”
Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (Maine), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Iowa), Mike JohannsMike JohannsLobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops MORE (Neb.) and Dick Lugar (Ind.) voted with Democrats for the amendment, while Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) opposed the amendment.
The Senate also passed an amendment requiring the Veterans Administration to create a plan on how to deal with its backlog of veterans’ claims. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill Senators push Trump on defense deals with India MORE (R-Texas) introduced amendment 3158 and it passed on a 95-0 vote.
The Senate is schedule to continue amendment work on the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, on Thursday, with hopes of finishing work by the end of the week. The defense bill funds U.S. military operations.