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Politics Killed the Energy Bill

Politics leading up to this November’s election helped kill the energy bill this summer. So, too, did disagreements between the parties about how to handle comprehensive climate change legislation. The reasons for failure were many.

So could Congress pass an energy bill by December 31? It’s unlikely. “With major unfinished business pending [like the defense bill and the Continuing Resolution, both of which will consume considerable floor time], there is little time remaining for Congress to pass energy legislation of any kind,” says Bill Wicker, communications director, Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.

The political will for action on energy policy could still happen after the election, but this remains uncertain, says Bruce Knight, a consultant to the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). Any new energy bill will have to be a scaled-down version of the one introduced this summer for some action on the Republican side. One of the main concerns was that the energy debate had not been fully discussed before climate change language was included in the bill, Knight says, adding. “This country needs a more statesmanlike approach to energy. We have to work to put votes together for energy legislation to get through both the House and the Senate.”

New energy legislation is not expected to significantly change renewable fuels, however. “They were addressed in a major way in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The feeling in Washington is that it makes sense to give this new law a few years to work before making new changes,” Wicker says.

However, the Senate Finance Committee will still be making a decision as to whether the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) will be extended beyond the end of this year. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who also is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that Congress should look seriously at the VEETC expenditure rather than just reflexively extending it.

Knight says, “To garner necessary investments, you need to have tax credits. While one year cycles are helpful for those already in the industry, longer range tax credits are necessary to attract more outside investment for a successful long-term energy policy.”

The preceding was excerpt from an article that will be published in the October 2010 edition of Farm Industry News magazine.

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