Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) this week expressed concerns with a Defense Department nominee due to her apparent support of a law that prohibits federal agencies from buying alternative fuels that have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.
Inhofe maintains that Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 could block the military from employing fuel sources such as coal-to-liquid and natural gas-to-liquid fuels.
"We must in the near-term and in the midterm develop and produce alternative fuel using proven technologies. I'm talking about gas-to-liquid and coal-to-liquid," Inhofe said at a Senate Armed Services hearing Tuesday. "Unfortunately, section 526 puts a cloud over some of the abilities of federal agencies from entering into contracts for synthetic or alternative fuel contracts for mobility-related use other than research, in other words for use in combat."
As the director of operational energy plans and programs, Sharon Burke would be responsible for working toward better fuel demand management for the services' ships, tanks, aircraft and vehicles as well as the generators that provide heating, air conditioning and power to bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Our military forces will not be energy independent because we do not procure our fuel where our forces are deployed," Burke told the Armed Services panel. "My focus if I am confirmed for this job is our military forces."
She added, "I consider the security risks from added greenhouse gases as well. I would not promote the use of fuels that are carbon intensive."
Burke is a vice president at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., focusing on ways international demand for natural resources affects climate change, biodiversity and security.
At the hearing, Inhofe expressed concern that if fuel is purchased in the field for combat use it may not be possible to determine if it meets the requirements of section 526, which Burke said she would look into if confirmed for the position.
Inhofe is not planning on blocking her confirmation, according to Jared Young, a spokesman for his office, but he is seeking more explanation about her stance on those issues in writing.
Inhofe, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, first introduced legislation to repeal section 526 in 2008. According to a letter from the Pentagon provided to E&E by Inhofe's office, DOD supported Inhofe's legislation at the time.
Section 526, a one-sentence provision, was originally geared toward blocking Air Force plans to buy jet fuels that would be made from domestic coal supplies. While DOD was interested in bolstering development of a domestic coal-to-liquids industry, producing such fuels would produce far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the carbon dioxide is not captured and stored (E&E Daily, April 16, 2008).
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