Politics is never pretty, and the politics of alternative fuels seem even less so.
Today, The Detroit News reports that the U.S. military's program to reduce its reliance on oil by using ethanol and other non-petroleum fuels could be de-funded in the military authorization bill that's now working its way through Congress.
Specifically, provisions in the $642 billion defense authorization bill approved by the House would slash $70 million in funds for development of advanced biofuels that would benefit both the armed forces and the airline industry.
The Colorado Independent (via Autoblog) puts it in a more partisan light, reporting that Democrats are lining up to defend biofuels research from a Republican rebellion against ethanol subsidies in particular.
At the end of last year, Congress entirely eliminated ethanol subsidies and removed import tariffs on ethanol produced in other countries.
Now, as detailed last week in Talking Points Memo, the House version of the defense bill contains a provision that bans the military from paying any more for biofuels than it does for conventional fuel--largely diesel for its enormous array of ground vehicles, as well as jet fuel.
Biofuel crops (photo: Texas A&M University biofuels research alliance)
Programs that would be affected include U.S. Navy tests of a variety of biofuels in its ships and airplanes, including those derived from algae, waste grease, and camelina, a plant in the mustard family.
Retired general Wesley Clark said at a news briefing yesterday that the House provision was "shocking."
He is now co-chairman of Growth Energy, an organization that "represents the producers and supporters of ethanol who feed the world and fuel America."
The Senate Armed Services Committee met yesterday, and will meet again today, on its own version of the defense authorization bill. The draft Senate bill currently contains similar language.
After the Senate passes its version of the bill, the two houses will then meet in conference committee to reconcile their bills before a final vote on the compromise language.
In other words, stay tuned. There will likely be more to come on this story.