U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Maria Cantwell of Washington on June 24 introduced legislation to simplify and extend the tax incentive for domestic biodiesel production. Their bipartisan bill would provide predictability to investors and producers so the United States can continue moving forward to displace imported fossil fuels with low carbon, renewable biodiesel.
In putting forward the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2011, S.1277, Grassley and Cantwell said that the lack of certainty about the tax policy inhibits access to capital and could undermine the progress the U.S. biodiesel industry has made to build the production capacity and infrastructure needed to displace imported petroleum diesel fuel with domestically produced, renewable, low-carbon biodiesel.
Grassley says the proposed legislation for domestically produced biodiesel would offer more "tax predictability" to encourage expansion of this clean energy alternative fuel, and it would sustain and create jobs.
Needed for economic, national security, environmental reasons
"Today's high gas and diesel prices are slowing our economic recovery and burdening families," said Cantwell. "For economic reasons, national security reasons, and environmental reasons, we must continue to invest in America's clean energy economy. Biodiesel is America's first advanced biofuel, it can be made from a variety of feedstocks, and is less polluting than today's petroleum-based diesel fuel. This bipartisan bill is smart federal policy because it is helping launch a nascent, domestically-based industry, reforms an existing credit to make sure it supports American biodiesel producers, and provides the industry the certainty it needs to continue to grow."
"America is trying to kick its addiction to foreign oil, and biodiesel is part of the cure," said Grassley. "The more we can encourage domestic production and meet demand, the better off we'll be economically, environmentally and geopolitically. This legislation simplifies the tax credit for producers. It also gives investors predictability so they'll be more likely to put their money into biodiesel production. And it's directly tied to jobs."
Biodiesel tax incentive helps support U.S. economy several ways
The biodiesel tax incentive was first enacted in 2004. Since then, it has helped encourage the production and use of biodiesel. Production in the United States has increased from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 690 million gallons in 2009, before Congress allowed the tax credit to lapse at the end of 2009, which resulted in job loss throughout 2010. The credit was restored retroactively in December 2010 through December 2011.
A study by Cardno ENTRIX, an international consulting firm that specializes in environment and natural resources economics, estimates that this year, domestic biodiesel production is expected to support more than 31,000 jobs and replace 800 million gallons of imported diesel fuel. The same study estimates that with the appropriate federal framework, by 2015 biodiesel production will replace 1.9 billion gallons of imported diesel fuel, support more than 74,000 jobs, and generate $4 billion in income and approximately $7.3 billion in gross domestic product. The study also found that if Congress does not enact the Cantwell-Grassley Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2011 and the biodiesel tax credit is allowed to expire at the end of 2011, consumers would be forced to spend an additional $6.6 billion for diesel fuel between 2012 and 2015.
Specifically, here's what the Cantwell-Grassley measure would do:
* Eliminate potential abuses and simplify administration of the incentive for both taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. The bill changes the incentive from a blender credit to a production tax credit so that incentives are given for building the domestic production industry. The change would focus the benefits of the credit on the production capacity of these cleaner, greener fuels rather than on the activity of just blending them with petroleum diesel.
By focusing on the production of the 100% bio-based fuel, this bill will shut down, once and for all, any remaining opportunity for the abuse known as "splash and dash," in which oil companies add a few drops of biodiesel to their petroleum diesel just to qualify for the tax credit.
* Provide the $1 per gallon tax credit for the production of biodiesel, renewable diesel and aviation jet fuel that complies with fuel standards and Clean Air Act requirements that define qualified fuels under current law.
* Increase the credit from $1 to $1.10 for the first 15 million gallons of biodiesel produced for small producers, those with an annual production capacity of less than 60 million gallons
* Simplify the definition of "biodiesel" to encourage production from any biomass-based feedstock or recycled oils and fats.
* Simplify the coordination between the income tax credit and the excise tax liability to tighten compliance and reduce administrative burdens on taxpayers.
* Extend this tax credit for five years, giving needed financial predictability so that more facilities can be brought online in the United States.