Energy Bill amendments aim to impede biofuels, benefit bioenergy

By Erin Voegele | February 03, 2016

The U.S. Senate is currently considering the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. To date, lawmakers have introduced more than 275 amendments to the bill, including several that would impact biofuels and bioenergy.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, or S. 2012, was first introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in September. In late January, the Senate took up the measure and began addressing proposed amendments. As of the afternoon of Feb. 3, 279 amendments have been submitted, with 41 proposed on the floor, 32 agreed to, and six not agreed to.

Several of the amendments would impact biofuels and bioenergy development. One such amendment, S.Amdt.3140, offered by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would benefit the biomass industry. According to the American Wood Council, the amendment would require the U.S. Department of Energy, the USDA, and U.S. EPA to jointly ensure that federal policy relating to forest bioenergy is consistent across all departments and agencies, and recognize the full benefits of the use of forest biomass for energy, conservation and responsible forest management.

“Renewable energy policies treat sustainably-managed biomass energy as carbon neutral, but current policies – particularly under EPA – fail to distinguish biomass energy carbon emissions from fossil fuel emissions. Wood products facilities use all parts of the raw material not only in the manufacture of products used in everyday life, but also generate most of the energy needed to do so without producing CO2 that wouldn’t have otherwise been released to the atmosphere,” said Sarah Dodge, vice president of government affairs at the AWC. “Our nation’s public policies should be aligned and recognize our industry’s unique biomass use as carbon neutral and as part of the sustainable carbon cycle. We thank Senator Collins for her leadership on this amendment.”

A.Amdt.3140 was agreed to by the Senate on Feb. 2. Those cosponsoring the measure included Sens. Amy Kobuchar, D-Minn.; Angus King, I-Maine; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.; and James E. Risch, R-Idaho.

Other amendments offered to the senate energy bill are detrimental to the development of bioenergy and biofuels.  S.Amdt.3047, introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would prohibit the USDA from using “any funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation or any other funds to provide grants or otherwise support or assist the construction, maintenance, or use of renewable fuel blender pumps, including through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership.” According to information published on the Congress.gov website, no action has been taken on that amendment.

An amendment, offered by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on behalf of himself, and Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; James Lankfrod, R-Okla.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah, aims to repeal the renewable fuel standard (RFS). According to Congress.gov, no action has been taken on that amendment, known as S.Amdt.2977.

An separate amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomy, R-Pa., and cosponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Flake, aims to eliminate the corn ethanol portion of the RFS. That amendment, S.Amdt.3016, would leave the advanced biofuel, cellulosic biofuel and biomass-based diesel volume requirements of the RFS intact. According to Congress.gov, no action has been taken by the Senate on the measure.