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22 Jul 12. Two companies involved on the ground level of an
expensive Pentagon effort to embrace biofuels have used familiar strategies in building their profiles in Washington, using hefty campaign contributions and aggressive lobbying to secure support. One company, Solazyme Inc, a subcontractor on a $12m alternative fuels
contract from the Navy, also has raised its Washington profile by hiring as strategic advisers former senior Clinton administration officials with close ties to the Pentagon or Department of Energy, according to corporate records. Solazyme and Gevo Inc, a Colorado company that won a small Air Force biofuels contract, are on the cutting edge of a $510m Pentagon effort to switch to biofuels to curb reliance on foreign oil. But the high per-gallon cost of the biofuels has spurred controversy on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans have branded the program as wasteful and raised questions about political ties. The Air Force is paying Gevo $59 per gallon. Gevo makes its fuel by converting sugar into isobutanol. Proponents of the program – as well as the Pentagon – argue that costs per gallon will dramatically drop after production ramps up and will eventually be competitive with fossil fuels. Even as the biofuel companies work to build revenues in an emerging field, their investors and employees have worked the political system, campaign finance records show. Investors, officers and employees at Solazyme and Gevo have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns in recent years, primarily to Democrats. Both companies have relied on extensive lobbying to help them win modest contracts. (Source: Reuters)