Baucus, Tester introduce bill to boost camelina demand, reduce dependence on foreign oil

Senators’ Legislation Answers Defense Department Call to Allow for Longer-Term Renewable Fuel Contracts

(Washington, DC) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester introduced a bill today to grant the Department of Defense the authority to contract for renewable fuel produced in the United States for up to 20 years. The Department currently has authority to contract with energy suppliers only up to five years, and allowing the longer-term contracts for American-made renewable fuels is expected to boost demand for alternative fuels derived from home grown crops, such as camelina, and reduce the military’s, and the country’s, dependence on foreign oil. 

“This bill will boost demand for Montana camelina and provide Montana farmers with a  reliable demand for their crop.  And with demand for camelina comes good-paying jobs converting the crop into renewable fuel made right here in America.  This will help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make our military even stronger,” Baucus said. “This bill is good for Montana and good for our national security.”

“This legislation is a win-win because it fuels our military with renewable fuels that can grow well in Montana,” said Tester, who wrote a 2007 law to create a federal crop insurance program for farmers who grow camelina.  “Longer contracts mean more predictability for folks who raise crops like camelina, and they will help our entire country become more energy independent.  That means stronger security and a stronger future for our economy, and for our kids.

The Pentagon’s largest energy user, the Air Force, has established a goal of purchasing half of its domestically consumed aviation fuel from alternative sources by the end of 2016 and currently plans to certify all aircraft for alternative fuel use by early 2011.  To meet its goals, the Air Force has invested $13 million in testing and certification for aviation bio-fuels, and has contracted with Sustainable Oils – which recently opened a location in Bozeman, MT – for 100,000 gallons of camelina-based bio-fuels.  Likewise, the Navy has invested roughly $3 million in testing and certification for aviation bio-fuels and signed a contract with Sustainable Oils  for the delivery of 40,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel.

By allowing the Defense Department to broker contracts like these for a longer period of time, the Baucus-Tester bill will increase demand for Montana camelina now, and provide Montana camelina famers with a  sustainable long-term demand for their crop.  Baucus and Tester also hope the legislation will lead to  an expansion of Montana’s renewable energy infrastructure. Camelina, which is best grown in a dry climate, is well suited for Montana.

“Such strategic legislation allows for energy crops, such as camelina, that are already contributing to the security of our national military fuel needs to have the surety of long-term demand necessary to create sustainability.  We at Sustainable Oils fully support Senator Baucus and Senator Tester’s effort to seek strategic solutions and know that this legislation is key to continued investment in Montana's potential to significantly contribute to the energy needs of our country,” said Sustainable Oils President Scott Johnson.

“This legislation will make a big difference for Camelina growers in Montana.  For too many years we’ve seen small communities in Montana growing smaller while we consume more energy imported from overseas. This bill could help turn things in the right direction and I thank Senator Baucus and Senator Tester for introducing the bill,” said Dean College of Technical Sciences at MSU Northern Gregory D. Kegel.

The Defense Department requested the contract authority granted under the Baucus-Tester bill and has suggested the authority will save money over the long-term by allowing the Department to negotiate cheaper contracts. The Air Transport Association has also expressed support for this policy in a letter to the Armed Services Committee in May.

Baucus and Tester introduced the American Security and Freedom Fuels Act of 2010 today as the Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act.