Consider this: Every time the price of a barrel of imported oil rises one dollar, it costs the Navy $31 million in increased fuel costs. The result is that the military must run fewer operations and complete fewer training exercises.
Our nation imagines itself the most free and secure in the world, yet this statistic clearly identifies America's reliance on foreign oil as a significant threat to our economy and national security.
We can no longer afford to allow a handful of countries -- many controlled by dictators and strongmen -- to exert this kind of influence over our military or our economy.
As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently stated at a biofuels conference in Mississippi, "We would never allow some of these countries we buy fuel from to build our ships, to build our aircraft, to build our ground vehicles, but we give them a say in whether our ships sail, our aircraft fly, our ground vehicles operate."
That is why the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy are partnering with the private sector to invest up to $510 million during the next three years to produce home-grown advanced biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.
The biofuels partnership aims to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs, while providing the continued federal commitment necessary to spur innovation into next-generation fuels that can be made from a variety of feedstocks.
The United States spends more than $300 billion on imported crude oil per year -- that is equivalent to $1,000 annually for every man, woman and child in America.
The more biofuels we create domestically, the less oil we need to import from overseas -- keeping our money here in the U.S., putting it to work in our economy and reducing the impact that foreign nations have on our country's overall security.
The advantages of a strong domestic biofuels industry are clear. And today we are producing almost a million barrels per day of fuel for our domestic economy, and saving our nation tens of billions of dollars each year. Yet, since the formation of the partnership, there have been indications that this biofuels partnership will be politicized and turn into just another opportunity for partisanship.
America cannot allow this to happen.
Energy security is national security. If we cannot fuel our own military ships, tanks and jets, we cannot protect our nation from potential adversaries. And to reach the advanced biofuels our nation needs, we have to "stand on the shoulders" of our current biofuels and its producers: America's ethanol industry, for it is this industry that is developing much of the technologies, marketing and distribution network, and business processes that can make substantial parts of our armed forces energy "independent."
More importantly, with an expansion of our current biofuels production, we have the opportunity to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil throughout our economy. We just need to stay the course, and enable our great agricultural and industrial community to move forward on the policy azimuths already set; they need consistency, stability and reliability from our policy and law makers. Congress should support this partnership and commit to its success.
We owe it to today's military and tomorrow's civilians.
General Wesley K. Clark is former NATO Supreme Commander and retired from the U.S. Army as a four-star general. A Rhodes Scholar, Clark now serves as co-chairman of Growth Energy, an American ethanol advocacy group. For more information, please visit www.growthenergy.org.
Copyright 2011; Biofuels Digest.