Senate to vote on military biofuels purchases

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Udall's amendment to sweeping defense policy legislation at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Sen. James InhofeJames InhofeWasting America’s nuclear opportunity McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait MORE (R-Okla.) introduced the measure that blocked the Defense Department’s option to spend on biofuels when the bill was in the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House defense bill contains similar language.

He argued that biofuels are too expensive at a time when $500 billion of defense cuts are slated for the next decade. He also opposes using the military to expedite commercialization of energy technology.

“All these arguments that I’ve heard against it, none of them hold weight. All we’re doing is experimenting in green energy,” Inhofe said in a Wednesday floor speech.

Inhofe, along with Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (R-Ariz.), initiated his charge against the military biofuels program after learning the Navy paid $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, amounting to about $26 per gallon.

“This is something the [Department of Energy] should be doing if anybody is going to be doing it,” Inhofe said.

But the program has the support of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. They call it vital for energy security, saying it gives the military more fuel options and loosens it from foreign oil’s grip.

Udall’s amendment also comes on the heels of 38 senators, mostly Democrats, sending a letter earlier this month urging the chamber's leadership to scrap the language.

Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents' right to sue Overnight Finance: Trump-Russia probe reportedly expands to possible financial crimes | Cruel September looms for GOP | Senate clears financial nominees | Mulvaney reverses on debt ceiling MORE (D-Ore.), who signed the letter, said Wednesday that because the Defense Department is the nation’s largest energy user, “[f]luctuations in global energy prices can have a dramatic, dramatic” impact on spending.

Wyden said defense spending on research and development would help bring biofuel costs down. He called dollar-for-dollar comparisons between petroleum and biofuels are disingenuous because the fuel technology has not yet reached commercial scale.

This post was updated at 1:34 p.m.