NBB In Sight

Congressional support looks promising in 2007
By Joe Jobe | January 24, 2007
The million-dollar question often asked of me since the November 2006 elections is, "How will biodiesel fare in the new Congress?" This is an excellent question and one that is asked with significantly more depth than just an interest in political handicapping. While the final answer to this question can't be truly known today, I think the biodiesel community has a lot to be optimistic about.

The outcome of November's elections brought significant change to Capitol Hill. The new Congress convenes with Democrats in control of both houses for the first time since the mid-1990s. House Democrats have a 233-202 majority, while the Democrats' majority in the Senate is significantly closer at 51-49. Some of our strongest supporters aren't returning to Congress this January. These individuals played a significant role in helping to shape public policies beneficial to the industry, which has led to our incredible growth over the past couple of years. To those members of Congress, we are very grateful. Yet, many of our long-time champions have returned to Congress, along with the election of new members who have indicated their strong support for renewables. The industry also enjoys an administration favorable to biodiesel.

During the previous Congress, we saw substantial support for our priority issues. We are once again seeing significant interest being taken by members of Congress in our top legislative priorities: the extension of tax credits, a strong energy component in the next Farm Bill and an alternative diesel standard. U.S. Reps. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., introduced bipartisan legislation (HR 196) on the first day of the new Congress to extend the biodiesel tax credits permanently. Several additional extension bills are planned for introduction over the next several weeks. The new chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will have jurisdiction over the next Farm Bill, and both are strong proponents of biodiesel and renewables. Bipartisan legislation providing for an alternative diesel standard that specifically includes biodiesel has also already been introduced.

Further, Democratic leadership has outlined strong support for enhancing America's energy independence and security through renewable fuels. A central component of its agenda includes a repeal of energy-related tax and economic incentive programs for the oil and gas industry. Revenues would be used for renewable energy initiatives to be considered in legislation later this year. The House of Representatives was scheduled to move aggressively to pass legislation repealing the incentives for the oil and gas industry before the end of January.

So, back to the original question How will biodiesel fare in the new Congress? While we can't answer that question definitively just a few days into the new Congress, we are optimistic that biodiesel can and will be a part of the new Congress' agenda. Our priorities must be weighed against the numerous priorities of other industries. Consider other factors that will have a significant impact on Congress' agenda (e.g., the economy, pay-as-you-go budgeting, deficit reduction, etc.). However, as was the case with the previous Congress, there is significant support for energy security, renewable fuels and biodiesel. Biodiesel is a bipartisan topic, and we are seeing it emerge as a powerful bridge issue that is creating opportunities for members from both parties to work together.

2006 saw the successful launch of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) Washington, D.C., office, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Scott Hughes and Alan Weber. The American Soybean Association (ASA) has long carried virtually all of the political water on behalf of the biodiesel industry and has done so with remarkable effectiveness. With the industry's recent growth, there has been substantially more water to carry and a need for the industry to supplement the ASA's resources. The NBB's new Washington, D.C., office managed to coalesce the industries' collective efforts into a first-class regulatory team, including contributions by our long-time all-stars Gordley Associates and Washington Council Ernst & Young. In 2007, the NBB will be ratcheting up its Washington, presence even further with some additional team members and a powerful legislative affairs strategy that will serve the industry well. Further, the industry's Political Action Committee is launching at the National Biodiesel Conference in February in San Antonio, Texas. This committee will benefit all U.S. biodiesel interests.

Fittingly the theme to this year's conference is "Government Policy." The focus on our critical government policy initiatives (e.g., extending the tax credit and keeping biodiesel from being banned in Texas) is intended to rally the many new members of this policy-driven industry to become more engaged in making our policy initiatives stronger. While we can't predict all of the political dynamics that will unfold with the 110th Congress, the NBB is prepared to take on the many challenges of the coming year with the help of our growing membership.
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