The Department of Defense (DOD) last week awarded $16 million in construction contracts split among three companies for building biofuel refineries. The funding for the money awarded by the DOD was included in the defense bill passed last year.

With the budget sequester in place, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had investigated not using the money for the biofuels plants and using the money for other expenses the military would now prefer to fund. It was determined that the money as tagged in the bill could not be used other than for biofuels production, according to a report by Annie Snider for the Energy & Environmental policy newsletter.

Obama administration officials apparently were divided about the initial idea of switching money within the defense budget as some staffers wanted nothing to sidetrack any renewable fuels programs. There was lobbying by groups supporting the biofuels funding, including farmer groups.

The government’s $16 million will be matched with $17.4 million in private investment funding, the E&E reporter noted. There is potential for another $180 million in government funding for construction costs under phase two of these biofuels projects. The contracts awarded are further explained to be joint efforts of the departments of defense, agriculture and energy to achieve large-scale production of economical “drop-in” biofuels.

Those awarded the contracts and their headquarters are Emerald Biofuels LLC, Golf, Ill; Natures BioReserves LLC, Sioux City, Neb.; and Fulcrum Brighton Biofuels LLC, Pleasanton, Calif. The expectation is that the three refineries will have the potential to produce a total of 150 million gallons of biofuel annually. All three facilities are anticipated to be in full production by 2016 with planned use of oil-seed crops, food processing wastes, animal fats and municipal solid waste as feedstocks.

A coalition of supporters for the biofuels refineries were reported to link this biofuels production to national security for energy self-deficiency. The awards were also referred to as funding processes and technologies for producing “next-generation” drop-in biofuels.

According to those in Washington, D.C., the question that was accepted as a reasonable reason to wean the country from imported oil and petroleum products a few years ago is now being questioned. More evidence and demonstrations of why biofuels investment is good for national security is more necessary than ever.