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Inside the Beltway: Efforts Toward Energy Legislation
by Eric Washburn

As the oil continues to spill from the Deepwater Horizon well, White House and Congressional Democratic leadership are increasingly referencing the disaster in their efforts to generate support for comprehensive energy legislation. It remains to be seen how successful this strategy will be.

On June 2, President Obama gave a speech in Pittsburgh where he called on Congress to rescind billion of dollars in tax incentives used by the oil companies and to enact legislation to reduce our “fossil fuel addiction.” He called for shifting the money now used to pay for the oil industry tax credits to research into new forms of clean energy and argued that Congress should approve major energy legislation that would for the first time put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the fact that few observers believe that Democratic leaders can muster the support necessary to pass major energy and climate legislation, Obama said that “the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.”

The next day, Senate Majority Leader Reid sent a letter to key committee chairmen asking them to submit to him recommendations for an energy bill by July 4. Among the points made in the letter, which was sent to Senators Baucus, Bingaman, Boxer, Dodd, Leahy, Lieberman, Lincoln, and Rockefeller, Reid stated that we must “push harder for the production of affordable alternative fuels and advanced vehicles.” Senator Reid indicated that he wanted the Senate to consider such legislation in July if possible.

The ethanol industry has a number of proposals that fit this description: extending the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, and enacting the Harkin-Lugar Choice Act that would deploy more blender pumps and flexible fuel vehicles capable of using a wide range of ethanol blends. There is little time left in this session of Congress to enact these policies. But with the spill now not expected to be fully contained until August, there is a chance that Congress could actually pass some type of energy bill to address this summer that will include key biofuels policies.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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