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Senators call foul on House biofuels proposal

Montana's U. S. senators have their hackles raised over a proposal in a House appropriations bill that could impact biofuel research, development and production, including work being done at Havre's university.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, narrowly passed an amendment to the House military appropriations bill that would restrict the U. S. Department of Defense buying biofuel for use in branches of the military.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in an interview Thursday that doing that would be a step backward.

"Quite honestly, lot of folks around here will say, 'Oh yeah, we're all-of-the-above (energy) kind of people, ' but when they do things like this that the House has done … it really takes us back to the 1960s, and I think that's real unfortunate. "

He said the provision also is an attack on the biofuels research at the Bio-Energy Center at Havre's university.

"Montana State University-Northern may be doing the best work on biofuels in the northwest, maybe even in the whole country, so … I think it's an unfortunate decision on the House's part, " he said.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., also criticized the provision.

"Tying our military's hands from investing in American energy independence and security is the surest way to feed our dependence on Middle-Eastern oil, " he said this morning. "Instead, we should pass the Freedom Fuels Act to help power our military on Montana-grown camelina and other American-made fuels that won't run out. "

The Havre Daily News had not by deadline received a response to a request to Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., asking for comment on Conaway's provision.

Tester said he and Baucus had set the Freedom Fuels Act to ensure the military has flexibility to purchase biofuels. Doing that will help the United States work toward energy independence, improve national security and drive down the prices of biofuels, he said.

Setting that back is a direct attack on the attempt to increase use on biofuels

Conaway called the purchase of biofuels a waste, saying $5 million spent by the U. S. Navy on organic jet fuel could have been spent better.

But Tester said investing in biofuels, like the military did in technology like semiconductors, microchips and GPS technology will drive down the price, making it available for everyone.

"We've invested money early and it's paid off over the long haul, because it's helped reduce prices, and I think that is absolutely, unequivocally the case with biofuels, " he said. "I think the most they ever are going to cost is right now. "


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