House Spending Bill Cuts Renewable Energy Programs

Cindy Zimmerman

Two renewable energy programs designed to help make America more energy independent were slashed in the spending bill passed Tuesday night by the House Appropriations Committee.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to help purchase renewable energy systems, including ethanol blender pumps, was cut from the current $75 million to just $1.3 million, but that was at least a slight victory since the program was slated for elimination. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) sponsored the amendment which salvaged the small amount that will allow USDA to continue to operate the program for the time being. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack just announced in April that the program could be used to install blender pumps, with a goal of installing 10,000 pumps nationwide in the next five years. Last week, he was in Tennessee promoting the program.

At the same time, the committee provided no funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill, despite pleas from a variety of agriculture, biofuels and even environmental organizations. “BCAP is just beginning to take shape in transforming rural America’s contribution to the nation’s renewable energy supply,” the groups wrote in a letter to committee leadership. “BCAP provides critical assistance to help farmers and foresters plant and collect next generation, purpose grown energy crops and other biomass that are key to ensuring the near‐term commercialization of low‐carbon advanced biofuels, power, and products. Failing to strongly fund BCAP in FY 2012 will severely stunt the development of these new dedicated energy crops just at a time when they are needed to further develop domestic sources of energy.”

The bill now goes to the full House for a vote but is likely to change substantially in the Senate.

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