Baucus, Tester praise passage of military biofuels provision

Havre Daily News

by Tim Leeds

Welcome Daines to Congress at weekly coffee session

Montana’s two U. S. senators issued a release Wednesday praising Senate passage of an amendment restoring the U. S. military’s ability to buy biofuels.

A House defense authorization bill and the Senate version had prohibited the military from buying or producing biofuels if it could buy or produce petroleum fuel more cheaply.

The amendment passed 62-37, with all but two “nay” votes – from Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. – coming from Republicans. Eleven Republicans did, however, join the Democrats in passing the amendment.

Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Montana Democrats, railed at the House in May when it approved the amendment by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, prohibiting the purchase of biofuels if petroleum would be cheaper, with Conaway saying $5 million spent by the U. S. Navy on organic jet fuel could have been spent better.

Once passed, the differences between the Senate and House versions of the defense authorization will have to be resolved in a conference committee.

In remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday urging support for the amendment, Baucus said using alternatives fuels will make the military and the country’s economy better, while “tying our hands and forcing the American military to depend on foreign oil is short-sighted and dangerous. “

He noted that research in Havre is helping find ways to strengthen the military and the economy.

“As a result of investing in biofuels, renewable Montana-grown crops like camelina have been used by our military as the predominate feedstock for biofuel blends, ” Baucus told his colleagues. “I call these freedom fuels, because they help get us off of foreign oil and help bring good paying jobs to Montana.

“Researchers at Montana State University-Northern in Havre, Montana, showed early that camelina to be a promising dryland crop for use in biodiesel and other bioproducts, ” he added.

Both the military and the private aviation industry have shown interest in moving to biofuels. Northern has patented a process to create aviation jet fuel from camelina, including the “aromatics” component that previous processes had not provided.

Tester praised passage of the amendment after the vote.

“Smart investments in homegrown energy sources grow our economy and increase our energy independence, ” he said in the release. “Our military’s leadership in alternative energy will strengthen our national security and create jobs here at home. “

Baucus and Tester have introduced the “Freedom Fuels Act” in the last two sessions of Congress to increase the U. S. military’s ability to contract for biofuels and stimulate biofuel research and production.

An incoming colleague also jointed the two senators at a weekly event they hold in Washington, their weekly coffee-and-donut session they hold with constituents. Rep. -elect Steve Daines, R-Mont., joined Baucus and Tester at their coffee session Wednesday.

“Montana has three representatives in Washington, D.C., ” Daines said in a release about the coffee session. “It’s crucial that we work together to serve the people and represent the interests of our state. “

In the release, Baucus and Tester welcomed Daines to Congress.

“Too often, the deck is stacked against rural states like Montana in Washington, so it’s all the more important that we work together to fight for what’s right for Montana, ” Baucus said. “Jon and I have been able to accomplish a lot of great things by working together, and we are excited to welcome Steve to the team. “

“Washington needs more folks willing to work across party lines, and I look forward to teaming up with Steve to make responsible decisions for Montana, ” Tester said. “Steve and I have had some good conversations about the best ways to put Montana priorities first, and I will keep working with Steve and Max to create jobs, cut our debt and support Montana’s small businesses. “

Baucus started holding the coffee meetings, held every Wednesday Congress is in session, 15 years ago to talk to constituents who are in the nation’s capitol. Tester has joined him every week since he was elected in 2006.

After the meeting, members of Baucus and Tester’s staff lead constituents on a tour of Washington.

Montanans traveling to Washington can find more information on the Wednesday coffee sessions, and other assistance offered by the senator, by visiting Baucus’ website at, clicking on “Services for Montanans” and selecting “Visiting Washington, DC. “