The Senate completed work on its comprehensive energy bill package on Tuesday by a vote of 85 to 12. The bill includes an 8-billion gallon renewable fuels standard by 2012.
"The wide-spread support for the Senate legislation reflects the current attitude of the nation--that a new direction for U.S. energy policy is long over-due," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "While the U.S. economy continues to suffer from the failed energy policy of the past, farmers and ranchers are particularly hard hit by the record high oil and natural gas prices."
"The policy and tax provisions for the production and use of ethanol and biodiesel makes the Senate energy bill the strongest biofuels bill ever," states Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen. "The Senate has once again supported renewable fuels in a strong, bipartisan fashion. This message will resonate from one side of Capitol Hill to the other."
In addition to an 8 billion gallon RFS, the Senate energy package contains some of the following provisions that will help farmers:
- Phasing out the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), in four years, and offering guarantees and other incentives to states.
- A 10% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for utilities by 2010, resulting in production of energy through renewable means, such as wind, solar, hydro-power.
- Extension of biodiesel tax incentive.
- The creation of an Assistant Secretary for Energy and Biobased Products at USDA.
- Promotes the purchase and usage of biobased products by the U.S. government.
Conferees will be selected from both the House and Senate to settle out difference between each chamber's bill. The House version only has a 5-billion gallon RFS mandate. MTBE is another issue kept a final bill from being approved in 2004.
According to CongressDaily, a deal is in the works to prevent MTBE from holding up final approval of a comprehensive energy bill. House-approved language protects MTBE producers from lawsuits that claim the additive is a "defective product." The Senate is faced with a filibuster if that language is included in the bill. A deal is in the works to "keep the liability protection while setting up a special fund that is intended to eliminate lawsuits and help cleanup efforts," CongressDaily reports.