Earlier this week, I wrote about the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee voting through a provision that would kill the U.S. military’s ambitious biofuels program. Last night, the Senate Armed Services Committee did the same, and worse. It voted not only to block purchase of any fuel more expensive than fossil fuels, but to “prohibit the construction of a biofuels refinery or any other facility or infrastructure used to refine biofuels unless the requirement is specifically authorized by law.” Congress micromanaging military energy strategy: What could go wrong?
“But David,” you’re saying, “Democrats have a majority in the Senate. The committee has 14 Democrats and only 12 Republicans. How could this happen?”
Check out the list of Dems on the committee. It’s a Who’s Who of cravens, warmongers, and preening faux centrists — some of the most reliably disappointing Dems in the Senate. But last night, only two of them voted against energy security and the best judgment of U.S. military leaders. (It goes without saying that every Republican voted against innovation; it’s now reflexive for them.) The two Dems flipped the final vote [PDF] 13-12 in favor of overriding the military.
What ostensible Democrats had the vindictiveness, myopia, and dishonor necessary? Why, Jim Webb (Va.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), of course. Webb has long been a big booster of oil and coal, but voting to constrain military strategy in the name of preventing competitors to fossil fuels is low even for him. Manchin is, by all accounts, just dumb as a box of hair. His close election in 2010 convinced him that to survive he has to lunge right at every opportunity, so he lunges with abandon. He’d probably shoot a pool of algae with a rifle if his brain trust told him to. Above all, he is a servant of the coal industry, which needs to block biofuels as way to bully the military into using expensive and polluting coal-to-liquid fuels.
Webb and Manchin, self-serving jerk and belligerent dunce, find their mirror image in the leaders of this backroom Republican insurgency against U.S. military policy: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Inhofe’s against clean energy because ARGLE BARGLE. McCain, though, used to be in favor. He used to talk about climate change quite a bit. Proposed a bill or two on the subject, as I recall. But ever since he lost to Obama, he has been increasingly bitter.
Now he says, “Adopting a ‘green agenda’ for national defense of course is a terrible misplacement of priorities” and “the president doesn’t understand national security.” National security, to an overcompensating narcissist like John McCain, means war, threatening war, or doing something “tough” to show the world we’re ready for war. He doesn’t see how using less oil fits into that.
It is an unbelievable rebuke and insult to military leaders for Republicans in Congress to do this, but then again, Republicans in Congress have always had more fealty to fossil fuels than the military. Just imagine what will happen after November 2012!
The bill — the Pentagon budget for next year — still has to pass on the floor of the House and Senate, and then go to conference committee, and then to the president’s desk. At any of those junctures, these amendments could be stripped out. But things aren’t looking good so far.