Report analyzes biofuels lobbying

By Susanne Retka Schill | September 16, 2008
Capital Eye Reports, a series of articles developed by staff at the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, took a look at players involved in biofuels debates on Capitol Hill in its review titled "Power Struggle: Division Within Biofuels Community Complicates the Energy Equation." The center compiles expenditure information submitted by lobbyists to the federal government and periodically reviews different industries.

In the report, available at www.opensecrets.org, author Luke Rosiak highlighted the battle by renewable diesel proponents to keep a broad definition of biodiesel in federal programs and the effort by the National Biodiesel Board to hold on to the dollar-per-gallon tax credit. In doing so, the NBB has spent $2.2 million on lobbying since 2006. In comparison, the Advanced Biofuels Coalition, representing second-generation renewable diesel technology, spent $120,000 on lobbying since
2007. The coalition successfully fought to be covered under the tax credit.

Tyson Foods Inc. and ConocoPhillips Co. also used their sizeable lobbying resources to argue for the expansion of the definition of biodiesel, which was restricted to methyl esters, to include technologies that create biomass-based diesel, or renewable diesel. The two companies have spent a total $8.5 million on lobbying since 2007, although that includes work on numerous issues and not just the renewable diesel issue.

Rosiak also investigated campaign contributions to some of the congressmen involved in the debate. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who sits on the Senate committees on agriculture and the environment, and chairs the finance committee, has sought to prohibit oil refiners from receiving the credit. Excluding presidential candidates, Baucus has received well over five times as much in campaign contributions from the alternative energy community as has any other senator this election cycle, totaling $55,800. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., who was responsible for expanding the tax credit to renewable diesel, has received the second-highest amount totaling $9,900.

The debate over first- and second-generation biofuels has also emerged in the presidential race. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he would eliminate the tariff on Brazilian ethanol, as well as subsidies for American corn-based ethanol. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who represents the nation's second-largest corn-producing state, would do neither, but emphasizes the development of cellulosic technology. Obama has received $76,000 from corn, soybean, sugar and alternative energy producers, compared with $17,300 by McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
 
 
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