Senate deflects farm bill amendments targeting renewable energy

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 - Renewable energy advocates saw the Senate turn away several amendments to the 2012 farm bill under consideration this week that targeted biofuel development.

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Dropped as a result of the agreement on amendments announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Monday were provisions that would repeal the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which requires the addition of 36 billion gallons of ethanol, biodiesel and advance biofuels into the nation's transportation fuel supply by 2022, and bar USDA from expending federal dollars for the installation of blender pumps.

An amendment from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., which would restrict wind turbine manufacturers access to federal funds, was voted down by a 2-1 margin Tuesday. The measure would have made co-ops and other entities that get a business and industry direct or guaranteed loan for a wind energy project ineligible for other federal benefits.

Alexander said in a brief floor statement that “rich developers of wind turbines” were being allowed to “double dip” by taking advantage of both USDA and DOE loan programs. However, Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., opposed the amendment, telling her colleagues that it cuts off manufacturers' access to loans that can create jobs.

And an amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., which would essentially prevent USDA from issuing loan guarantees, was defeated 14-84. Agriculture Department loan guarantee programs support the development of facilities that produce advanced biofuels, as well as help fund renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements for farms and rural businesses.

However, farm energy program advocates remain concern about an amendment yet to be considered from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who would eliminate all funding for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Programs.

Farm energy proponents are also hopeful for a yet to be considered amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which would provide grants of up to $50,000 to establish or expand biomass consumer cooperatives.

 

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