Press Releases

Bipartisan Bill to Improve Military’s Energy Security Included in NDAA

SEA FUEL Act would spur military innovation in carbon capture technology

Washington, December 17, 2019

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that bipartisan legislation to improve the U.S. military’s energy security and reduce carbon emissions has been included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference agreement approved by the Senate.  The Securing Energy for our Armed Forces Using Engineering Leadership (SEA FUEL) Act would direct the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to pioneer new technologies that will capture carbon dioxide from air and seawater and convert it to clean fuels or other useful products.  This marks the first time a federal program will be created for dedicated research and deployment of direct air capture and blue carbon technologies.  The program has been allocated $8 million in the 2020 appropriations agreement set to be approved by Congress this week.

“The military has much at stake with climate change.  Rising seas are lapping at bases at home and abroad, and the danger of conflict across the globe is increasing as natural resources dry up,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Investing the military’s research capabilities in carbon capture technology holds the promise of making overseas installations more self-sufficient while heading off the effects of climate change.”

“The Pentagon recognizes that climate change is real and poses serious national security challenges.  This provision directs the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Homeland Security to invest in promising research into carbon capture technologies,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee.

“The U.S. military has an opportunity to accelerate innovative technologies that could help our fleet project strength and operate in every corner of the globe like never before, while also revolutionizing energy use and improving the lives of people around the world,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK).  “The SEA FUEL Act will build on the progress of the Navy’s 2017 carbon capture breakthrough and hopefully lead to beneficial new ways to utilize carbon dioxide to supply and power our future. I’m glad to cosponsor Senator Whitehouse’s legislation and see its inclusion in this year’s NDAA.”

Whitehouse introduced the SEA FUEL Act along with Reed and Sullivan in May.  Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Anthony Brown (D-MD) introduced the House companion in June.

“Congress’ passage of the SEA FUEL Act is excellent news which will result in forward progress on the climate crisis,” said Congressman Beyer.  “Our just-passed bipartisan legislation will reduce the carbon footprint of the US military while increasing readiness.  Importantly, the SEA FUEL Act will also help foster the emerging technologies to address the increased concentration of carbon in our air and in our water.  I thank our bipartisan group of cosponsors for their support of the bill, and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

“America’s military readiness depends on our ability to effectively respond to the national security threat posed by climate change,” said Congressman Brown.  “Adopting carbon capture technology across the Department of Defense and Armed Services will improve our fuel security and foster innovation critical to responding to these challenges.”

Technologies are emerging from the carbon capture sector that remove carbon emissions directly from the air and convert carbon dioxide into new materials like plastics, chemicals, or jet fuel.  These promising technologies could generate new industries and jobs, and have an important role in removing carbon emissions from the environment.

Defense Department facilities and vessels rely heavily on fuels transported from offsite, creating security risks.  Overseas military installations would benefit from technology to convert excess carbon dioxide into fuel onsite.  In addition, the captured carbon may be turned into useful products like building materials that could be used to increase low-lying elevations and protect infrastructure in remote areas.

The U.S. Navy has already patented a technology that would remove excess carbon dioxide from ocean water and turn it into fuel.  The Energy Future Initiative, chaired by former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, recently authored a report entitled “Clearing the Air,” which highlighted the value of researching and demonstrating carbon removal technologies across multiple agencies.