Talking Point

By Joe Jobe | July 01, 2004
As summer comes to a close, the election season is only beginning. You can see the campaign trail from every town in America. Amid the many campaign issues the candidates have highlighted is the need for renewable energy and decreasing our petroleum imports. Biodiesel appears to have become a campaign buzzword.

President Bush has expressed support for biodiesel on the campaign trail, saying "any reasonable energy policy" will include biodiesel, and that it "makes sense." In response to a question about the high cost of energy in the August 2004 edition of Reader's Digest, he said " we have to promote alternative sources of energy, like ethanol and biodiesel." Presidential candidate John Kerry has also said he supports biodiesel and talks about renewable energy often.

In July, Vice President Dick Cheney discussed the importance of passing legislation with a biodiesel tax incentive to help diversify America's energy supply. Speaking at a campaign event in Columbia, Mo., near National Biodiesel Board (NBB) headquarters, Cheney expressed support for the biodiesel tax incentive while talking about the Energy Bill, which has stalled in Congress.

"That bill includes within it significant incentives for biodiesel and ethanol," he said. "It's very important, we think, to go down that road because it will help us to diversify our supplies, but it also will reduce the extent to which we're dependent on foreign sources of oil for our basic transportation. It's a very good piece of legislation. We need to get it done."

Securing passage of a biodiesel tax incentive is the top legislative priority of the American Soybean Association and NBB. It's critical for the future success of biodiesel. We believe, and many leaders in Washington agree, that in order for biodiesel to compete, the playing field must be leveled. The petroleum industry has enjoyed favorable energy policy for decades, but this will be the first tax incentive that biodiesel has ever had.

Due in large part to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and others, a biodiesel tax incentive was included in the final Energy Bill. It is structured as a federal excise tax credit that amounts to one penny per percentage point of biodiesel blended with petroleum diesel. The biodiesel tax incentive was also included in the Senate-passed Transportation Bill and in legislation approved by the Senate to repeal the Foreign Sales Corporation and Extraterritorial Income (FSC/ETI) tax exclusion. We are driving hard to get this tax incentive passed in any one of these legislative vehicles.

It is very gratifying to hear Vice President Cheney say so clearly that there is support for the biodiesel tax incentive at the Executive level, and to hear President Bush say he supports biodiesel. Now is the time for them to use their leadership to get this through. We thank the Vice President for successfully brokering the Energy Bill last time, but we need him to continue to fight for this.

Last fall marked the 30 year anniversary of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, when OPEC declared economic warfare on the West by quadrupling the price of petroleum. It led to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. In 1973, oil imports accounted for less than 30 percent of US consumption. Now imported petroleum is approaching 60 percent and has become the single largest component of our national trade deficit. Renewable fuel measures would help level the playing field for the increased use of domestic fuels that enhance our energy supplies, energy security, the environment and our economy.

If ever there was a time for courageous leadership on energy policy, it is now.

Joe Jobe is executive director of the National Biodiesel Board. He can be reached at [email protected]
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