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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I too rise, as my colleague from Hawaii just did, to speak in support of the Department of Defense and in opposition to the amendment offered by the Senator from Pennsylvania. As has been outlined, this amendment would strike funding for a very important and effective Navy program which now works with private industry along with the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture to produce alternative fuels. As we work together to overcome the harm that has been done by sequestration, it is essential we provide the military with the flexibility to overcome current and future threats. That includes allowing the DOD to invest in energy sources and fuel technologies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Unfortunately, the Toomey amendment does the opposite. So accepting it would do real harm to our military. It would cost more money than it would save and it would damage the military's strong and necessary efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

In carrying out the work of our Nation, the Department of Defense consumes approximately 330,000 barrels of oil every single day. That works out to be 120 million barrels per year. What does that cost us? Last year, the military spent over $16 billion on fuel. Because of rising global oil prices, that was about $2.5 billion more than they forecasted. Those rising costs--in dollars and in operational capability--are staggering. I think that is the only word that applies.

If we think about it, we realize that for every 25-percent increase in the price per gallon of oil, the military's fuel costs increase by $1 billion. In order to make up for that shortfall, the DOD has to pull money from operations and maintenance, which means that rising fuel costs result in less training, deferred maintenance, and reduced operational capability.

That is a terrible triad if there ever was one. That means our troops, then, are also less prepared when they go into harm's way. They are less ready to fight when it matters most.

The Toomey amendment would undercut efforts to end that cycle. It would delay the development of technologies that would clearly bring lower costs, more domestic production, and more American jobs. That is why the DOD is investing in these domestic alternatives to foreign oil.

It should tell us something that in an era of reduced Department of Defense budgets our senior leaders remain fully committed to this effort. Even when we have to tighten our belts, they think this is an investment that makes sense.

What are we doing? We are investing in research and development that will develop new fuels that can be made from biologic feedstocks. These are fuels that can be grown and then refined here at home.

I want to be clear, these are not programs that are being forced on the DOD through earmarks or by environmentalists or other groups that some like to demonize. These are DOD initiatives, undertaken to protect the military from rising fuel costs and an increasingly volatile international marketplace.

So even under the threat of sequestration, investments in new energy technologies and alternative fuels remain a priority.

I would say to my friends who say we cannot afford to spend money on alternative fuels, our uniformed senior leaders tell us we cannot afford not to.

Think about it another way. We send $300 billion overseas every year for oil. If we could keep about one-twentieth of a percent of that money at home, we would pay for this program.

For about half of what we spend on military bands each year, we could be establishing a domestic energy industry.

For about one-sixth of the cost of this year's funding for the MEADS missile system--a system that the DOD has no intention of putting into operational use--we could diversify our energy portfolio and drive down costs.

We would be taking billions out of the hands of terrorists and reducing the risk, at the same time, to our military personnel.

The proponents for cutting off these investments in alternative fuels would argue that the Defense Department should not be involved in the development of new energy sources. I could not disagree more. Let me tell you why.

These biofuels could not be used as leverage against us. The refineries could not be taken over by al-Qaida-backed extremists or blockaded by Iranian gunboats.

Energy security is national security, and this is exactly the right kind of investment that our military should be making.

Just think historically: Military research and development has sustained the enormous technological advantage we maintain over our adversaries. Our willingness to invest in the future has helped keep us safe.

It has also been said that the DOD should not be spending money on energy development. If that were the case, we would not have a nuclear-powered Navy. Without military investment in emerging technologies, we would not have jet engines, microchips, microwave ovens, radar, or GPS navigation.

Ensuring our energy security ought to be a national priority. Our reliance on foreign oil is a threat to our security and our economy, and I suggest even our very way of life.

We need a whole-of-America solution to this national problem, and the Department of Defense absolutely has a critical role to play in that effort.

If you believe that the DOD has a vested interest in having reliable sources of fuel and energy, then you should agree that they have a role to play in ensuring that new fuels meet their needs.

As I mentioned, we are all concerned about the effect of sequestration on our troops, but we cannot solve our problems with the same kind of shortsighted thinking that got us here in the first place.

Killing the Navy's biofuels program--and make no mistake, that is exactly what this amendment would do--will cost more money than it saves. It will set back an industry that is poised to provide our country with enormous and important benefits. And it will make sure--it will ensure--that we keep pouring money into foreign coffers.

So I urge my colleagues to continue to support smart investments in our future, like the Navy's biofuels initiative. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to oppose the Toomey amendment.

Mr. President, thank you for your attention.

I yield the floor.


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