Sunday, June 3, 2012

Soaked With Oil Cash, Republicans Block Military’s Push To Use Clean Energy

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The Pentagon wants to move toward a greener military, one that relies more on renewable energy and less on fossil fuels. Why? It would save lives. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made that case last October and a recent Army study found that “[a] fighting force that isn’t restricted by the reach of a tanker truck or weighted down by heavy batteries is more nimble and, as a result, more lethal.”

So in theory, Congress should have no problem passing legislation to provide the funds to make this a reality. However, there are a few hurdles standing in the way: Republicans. The House GOP included a measure in the defense authorization bill this month prohibiting the Defense Department from buying alternative fuels if they cost more than “traditional fossil fuel.” And the Senate Armed Services Committee last week followed suit with an “even tougher” provision mirroring the House version but also exempts DOD from clean energy standards.

Why are the Republicans doing this? chairman Jon Soltz pointed out yesterday that they get a lot of money from the oil and gas industry:

In short, Republicans would be forcing the military to go back to using the same fuels that hampered it from doing its job — and the same fuels that have resulted in the deaths of so many Americans.

Why? That’s the question that must be asked. And the answer is pretty simple. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Oil and Gas interests have donated 88 percent of their political contributions to Republicans this cycle — nearly $18 million. That’s the highest percentage they’ve given to Republicans since at least 1990.

And, boy, are Republicans delivering for them. Even if it means forcing the Pentagon to stop developing programs that could make our military more effective. Even if it means banning programs that would save the lives of our troops. There is nothing, it seems, that they value more than delivering for their dirty oil campaign donors.

Two Senate Democrats, Jim Webb (VA) and Joe Manchin (WV) joined the Armed Services Committee Republicans in voting for the measure. However, the amendment may have failed had Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted against a similar amendment, been present for the vote. The Hill reported last week that “[a] Collins spokesman said she had to miss the vote to speak with the commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine after the USS Miami fire. He said Collins would support biofuels if the issue comes up on the Senate floor.”

“While we all love the environment and want to be good stewards of the earth,” Soltz added, “the military isn’t on some kind of ecological mission when it comes to renewables. They’re trying to help ensure men and women come home to their loved ones.”

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