Ethanol interests are hoping that Congress might finally get the energy bill into conference committee this week.
Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) says, “It sounds like Democrats and Republicans are beginning to work out some of the political differences and procedural differences they had in moving forward,” Jennings says. “I would predict that hopefully this week we will have an agreement to move forward on a bi-partisan, bi-cameral conference.”
There are some major differences to be worked out. For one, the House does not have the Renewable Fuel Standard that is present in the Senate bill. The Renewable Fuel Standard is a major goal of many in Congress. Senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have introduced stand-alone legislation that would immediately update the Renewable Fuels Standard and require three-billion gallons of biofuels from cellulosic sources.
Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee is finally scheduled to mark up a farm bill Wednesday morning, with chairman Tom Harkin announcing agreement on structure last week.
Senator John Thune (R-SD) says the Senate version of the farm bill will include his legislation designed to promote the production of cellulosic ethanol produced from switchgrass, other native grasses and biomass feedstocks such as wood chips. Thune’s cellulosic ethanol bill, officially known as the Biofuels Innovation Program (BIP), was introduced in May.
Thune’s legislation includes cost-sharing for establishing energy-dedicated crops and paying competitive rent until the energy dedicated crops are sold. The legislation also encourages feedstock production by providing per-ton payments to producers of biomass, such as corn cobs, perennial grasses, and wood chips.