Obama turns to Pentagon to finance green energy

| Energy | Catrina Rorke
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President Obama’s 2013 budget would rack up more wasteful spending on his favorite energy gambits.  With 5% increases in non-military R&D, a trajectory to double the budgets of science agencies, billions in job training, and handouts for private companies to update their facilities, this budget doesn’t do anything to trim the deficit or define an appropriate energy policy.  Worst of all, Obama is hiding new energy bets at the Pentagon, charging our Defense Department with major investments in renewable energy projects while cutting their budget by $5.1 billion.

Obama has had a tough time getting buy-in for his energy decisions between the sluggish economy, a failed attempt at cap-and-trade, mishandling of nuclear waste policy, the Solyndra fiasco, and his blind refusal of the Keystone pipeline.  He suffers a crisis of confidence in defining and planning for the future of energy, and his eagerness to speed our progression to a low-carbon economy has obliterated his credibility. 

But revoking support for renewable technologies is a nonstarter in an election year hinging on the environmental left.  Obama’s 2013 budget doesn’t feature big ticket investments in his favorite energy sources out of the Department of Energy, but out of the Department of Defense.  The Pentagon was the perfect place to turn: they’ll buy jet fuel from algae, power forward operating bases with solar energy, power combat vehicles with hybrid technology, and expand the presence of renewables on military bases.

In many ways, renewable investments from the military are positive.  Liquid fuel costs in combat zones are extraordinary, in terms of both dollars and the risk to human life.  We use our military to keep trade routes open and stabilize the international price of petroleum.  As a major energy consumer, DoD has the potential to utilize demonstration projects and create a meaningful market for emerging technologies.

But new energy spending is new energy spending, no matter where it happens.  If Obama were serious about budgeting for a successful America, he would trim wasteful spending in all corners, not hide it in a department resilient to cuts.  Overinvestment in his favorite energy technologies has not created jobs or improved energy independence; instead, it has clouded the energy market and made it more difficult for the private sector to grow.  Let’s trim the deficit, focus spending in the right places, and leave Pentagon deliberations to the Pentagon.

This edit corrects an inaccuracy in the previous version, which attributed “low-emissions economic development” to the Department of Defense.  This priority is actually assigned to the Department of State.