House bill aims to curb Pentagon’s power to buy alternative fuels

The White House is threatening to veto a defense spending bill after complaining that the measure would limit the military’s ability to power its planes, ships and tanks with alternative fuels.

At issue are provisions in the defense spending bill set to be debated by the House of Representatives this week that take aim at the Pentagon’s use of alternative fuels.

The measure would block the military from buying alternative fuels that cost more than their conventional counterparts.

A separate provision would waive a 2007 ban on the government buying alternative or synthetic transportation fuels that would produce more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum-based options (when measured over their entire life cycle, from production to combustion).

In a statement of administration policy issued Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget said the president’s senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill “if the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources.” The White House’s concerns with the alternative fuels provisions were among a long list of complaints with the defense spending bill.

According to the OMB, the provisions would hamper the Defense Department’s ability to procure alternative fuels “and would further increase American reliance on fossil fuels, thereby contributing to geopolitical instability and endangering our interests abroad.”

The legislation would almost certainly force the Navy to back off plans to use biofuels to power its “Great Green Fleet,” part of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ plans to wean the service off conventional supplies.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have repeatedly tried to waive the 2007 alternative fuel requirement. Critics of the five-year-old ban on more emission-heavy alternative fuels, including Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., say the military needs a full array of options for fueling its equipment, without unfairly walling off some domestic energy sources.

Backers of the plan to waive the so-called Sec. 526 ban say it would keep coal liquids and other alternative fuels that could be produced domestically off limits.