Hirono: “This amendment undermines our long-term national security… Already the research and deployment of alternative energy is benefitting our long-term capabilities, improving troop safety, and making security operations more affordable”
Washington, D.C. -- Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took to the Senate floor for the first time since being sworn into the Senate to criticize a hastily offered measure that would strip funding for certain Department of Defense (DOD) alternative energy initiatives. The measure, a Republican amendment to the continuing resolution that funds the government, would strike funding for military biofuel programs, undermining our national security and maintaining our military’s dependence on fossil fuels. Hawaii has been home to Navy biofuel research conducted at the U.S. Pacific Command.
“Right now, our military is almost totally dependent on fossil fuels,” Hirono said on the floor. “These resources are finite, priced on a global marketplace, and produced by nations with whom we don’t always see eye to eye. There are also new powers rising, and new challenges evolving. So to preserve a 21st century force, we need to invest in 21st century priorities. This means that we must diversify how we power our military.”
Senator Hirono has long championed alternative energy research and development, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is focused on finding ways our nation’s military can be less dependent on foreign oil. As the most oil-dependent state in the nation, Hawaii is also uniquely impacted by energy issues.
Below is the speech as Hirono gave to her Senate colleagues:
I ask that the quorum call be vitiated.
I rise today in strong opposition to amendment #115.
This amendment would reduce funding for Advanced Drop in Biofuel Production.
I strongly oppose this amendment for several reasons.
First, this amendment undermines our long-term national security.
The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlined several areas where reforms are imperative to improving our national security.
Implementing reforms to strengthen our energy security was one of these areas.
Right now, our military is almost totally dependent on fossil fuels.
These resources are finite, priced on a global marketplace, and produced by nations with whom we don’t always see eye to eye.
There are also new powers rising, and new challenges evolving.
So to preserve a 21st century force, we need to invest in 21st century priorities.
This means that we must diversify how we power our military.
The project that this amendment seeks to cut is fairly modest in the scheme of the military budget—but the overall benefits to our forces will be well worth it.
Our nation has always invested in technologies that produce long-term benefits and address changing circumstances—from more advanced tanks and aircraft, to faster communications and lighter armor.
We have to innovate now in order for our military to have the capabilities to protect our nation.
We need to make the same kind of investments now in our military’s long-term energy needs.
Already the research and deployment of alternative energy is benefitting our long-term capabilities, improving troop safety, and making security operations more affordable.
In fact, just last summer, at the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) the U.S. Navy demonstrated its “Great Green Fleet” with surface combatants and aircraft using advanced biofuels for the first time.
This exercise, the largest international exercise in the world, proved that our military platforms can use this fuel.
Prior to the exercise, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said of the biofuel demonstration:
“The Navy has always led the nation in transforming the way we use energy, not because its popular, but because it makes us better war fighters.”
Clearly, continuing to support this type of investment will pay additional dividends that will help ensure the U.S. remains the world’s pre-eminent military and technological power in the 21st century.
However, there is another reason to oppose this amendment and support the military’s ongoing efforts to improve its energy security.
That reason is that it makes good long-run budgetary sense.
Fossil fuels are a finite resource that is priced on a global market.
Increasingly, this fuel is produced by nations with whom we don’t always see eye-to-eye.
As global competition for fuel resources intensifies, it is vital that we reduce the amount necessary to power our military.
Not only does our reliance on fossil fuels constrain our assets and resources from an operational perspective—it also puts significant strain on already stretched budgets.
For example, between FY 2005 and FY 2011 the Department of Defense’s spending on petroleum rose from $4.5 billion to $17.3 billion.
That’s a 381 percent increase.
While that number is shocking, another shocking fact is that during this time DOD was actually using 4 percent LESS petroleum.
So we’re paying nearly four times more money for less fuel.
In addition, global price spikes make budgeting for our current energy costs extremely challenging.
According to the Navy, every time oil prices rise by $1 their fuel budget inflates by $30 million.
In FY 2012 the U.S. Pacific Command, which is based in Hawaii, faced a $200 million shortfall in operation and maintenance funds.
This is directly related to spiking fuel costs.
These unforeseen circumstances reduce our military’s capabilities and readiness.
It is also unsustainable in today’s budget environment.
So while the Senator from Pennsylvania argues that biofuels are too expensive now, new technologies are always more expensive at first.
That’s exactly why we need to invest in scaling up, instead of scaling back.
The first fighter jets off the assembly line are always more expensive than the 100th.
The fact is that it’s the height of irresponsibility for us to rely on fuel sources with such unstable costs.
That’s why the military is already working to reduce its fossil fuel usage, and to develop and deploy alternatives wherever possible.
At the U.S. Pacific Command, investments in renewable energy, energy efficient buildings, and fuel cell or hybrid vehicles are making installations more cost effective.
In fact, PACOM expects to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity by 80 percent.
This would reduce the total DOD electricity demand in Hawaii by 34 percent and save the DOD $42 million per year in electricity costs.
This $42 million could be put to better uses.
These are savings that can be replicated on a service-wide scale—and will save far more money that could be used to support O&M than the Toomey amendment will.
The military recognizes this.
That is why General James Mattis has stated:
“I remain committed to unleash the burden of fuel from our Operational and Tactical Commanders to the greatest extent possible.”
These investments are about improving our national security by changing the way we power our military
Advanced biofuels is an investment in that goal, and one we should continue.
As U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen has said:
“Operational energy equates exactly to operational capability. Let’s all work this hard, together!”
So I urge my colleagues to vote against the Toomey amendment.
I yield the floor.