Before recessing in early August, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated a controversial amendment that “renewable fuels” advocates say would effectively put ethanol and biodiesel fuels back in limbo.

The so-called “Cox-Waxman amendment,” offered by Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Christopher Cox, R-Calif., would have given California a waiver from federal reformulated gasoline requirements (RFG).

California interests took the state's long-standing request for waiver directly to Congress after the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this summer denied the state's request for exemption from the provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.

The Cox-Waxman amendment would have been tacked to the pending Renewable Fuels for Energy Security Act.

Look-alike renewable fuels bills in both houses of Congress would increase renewable fuels, including ethanol and biodiesel.

The energy bill proposes that renewables — or fuel and fuel additives processed from grains and soybeans — account for 3 percent of highway transportation fuels by 2011 and 5 percent by 2016.

The amendment was defeated by a vote 300 to 125. Opposition came from both sides of the isle with support coming from the leadership of both parties.

Much of the debate focused on concerns that the Cox-Waxman amendment was for California only.

Lawmakers who opposed the amendment spoke strongly about the benefits of the RFG program and referred to a letter from EPA Administrator Christine Whitman calling for the amendment's defeat.

“The federal RFG program has been an extremely successful and cost-effective program that has provided substantial air quality benefits to millions of people throughout the country,” Whitman said.

National Corn Growers President Lee Klein of Battle Creek, Neb., said the defeat of the amendment was a victory for U.S. grain producers. “This was a hard-fought victory for corn growers who have worked to defeat this amendment in subcommittee, in full committee, and finally on the floor of the House,” he said.


e-mail: bpryor@primediabusiness.com