How Will Republican Leadership Affect Biomass and Other Renewables?

By Bob Cleaves | January 04, 2011

Happy New Year and happy new Congress.

The 112th Congress begins its first session later this month. As all are aware, the Republicans have wrested control of the House away from the Democrats.

How will these changes in Washington affect the biomass industry?

The short answer is that things will probably change to some extent, but probably not a whole lot. Below are a few areas where we can expect to see differences from the Democratic reign. But, rest assured, the Biomass Power Association will be working closely with our team in Washington to continue to keep the biomass industry and our legislative issues front-and-center for new and old members alike.

Renewable energy standard: During the 111th Congress, many in the renewable energy sector had high hopes for the passage of a renewable energy standard, which would likely have resulted in extra incentives for renewable energy forms over more traditional forms of energy production. The Republican majority in the House may not have the same appetite for aggressive federal stimulus for the renewable sector. That said, clean energy is a bipartisan issue, so stay tuned. 

Taxes: Since Republicans tend to vote heavily in favor of business interests—especially small business—we are  hopeful that the 1603 tax extenders will be enacted at the beginning of the new Congress (if they were not enacted during the December lame duck session). Tax extenders would give many new and existing facilities some room in the budgets for updating equipment, hiring extra help and many other expenses that are essential to effectively running a biomass facility. Many other renewable energy associations are similarly hopeful for a near-term 1603 passage. As this column is going to press, the fate of the production tax credit for existing facilities is very much uncertain.
Jobs: Jobs and the economy will likely take a place of prominence during the start of the new Congress. If your district elected a new member of Congress, we urge you to write a letter of introduction to your new representative. Ideally, the purpose of your letter would be threefold: explaining what biomass energy is, listing the number of jobs that your biomass facility provides to the district’s economy and describing the many economic and environmental benefits of biomass energy.

As we all know, many states are taking a growing interest in our industry. The state level traditionally has been where the biomass industry fights some of its most challenging battles, and we do not expect this to change. Some states, like California, have been highly supportive of biomass throughout the industry’s short existence. Others, like Massachusetts, have proven to be more difficult to win over.

As more biomass facilities are built across the country, we will continue to work closely with state and local officials to ensure they have a good understanding of the many potential benefits offered by biomass.

Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA has announced a few policy changes that will positively affect the industry, either immediately or sometime in the future. It appears increasingly likely that the agency will correctly classify biomass as environmentally friendly or carbon neutral in the new year.
BCAP: Finally, there is BCAP, which remains a significant program for the biomass industry. All of us will have to work hard in the coming year to make sure Congress funds BCAP at acceptable levels. While our job will be made extra challenging in this era of fiscal restraint, biomass deserves the same level of support provided to other forms of agriculture. It’s up to us to make sure that happens.
We wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year, and we look forward to working with you to continue to educate Americans and our elected officials about our industry.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association