Following a decade without a long-range comprehensive energy bill, including five years of wrangling over a host of fuel-related issues, Congress cleared the final legislative hurdles near the end of July.

The Senate passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on July 29 by a vote 74 to 26 following a vote of 275 to 156 the previous day in the House of Representatives. The bill now will proceed to President Bush's desk for him to sign into law.

A wide range of agricultural organizations are praising the act, which, while offering $14.5 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas producers, simultaneously raises the bar for Renewable Fuel Standards mandates by calling for at least 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel to be used in the nation's motor fuel supply by 2012.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and American Soybean Association called passage of the Energy Bill a “crucial step forward” in fostering biodiesel as a long-term factor in domestic energy supply. The bill passed with several provisions to promote biodiesel's growth, including the extension of a federal excise tax credit, the industry's number one priority.

National Corn Growers Association President Leon Corzine said the bill would improve economic and job growth in rural areas, increase gains for domestic feed exports and decrease the Unites States' dependence on crude oil imports.

“Not since 1992 has the United States Congress enacted a comprehensive national energy policy. We are delighted that this legislation promotes more diverse and domestically based energy sources and we are particularly happy that this bill will expand the use of domestic renewable fuels,” Corzine said. “Everyone wins with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.”

National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson predicted the renewable fuel standard would help all kinds of family farmers, including ranchers. “American producers want to be part of our nation's energy solution, and we are ready and willing to work hard to address today's pressing energy needs,” Frederickson said.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, co-sponsored legislation in the bill to extend the biodiesel tax credit to 2008. It was scheduled to expire in 2006.

“In order to create favorable market conditions for biodiesel, we must have adequate support and tax incentives to foster these conditions,” Lincoln said. “This bill is a tremendous step forward for biodiesel because it helps us in our goal towards energy independence.”


e-mail: abell@primediabusiness.com