A Look Back and a Look Ahead

By Michael Mcadams | October 29, 2012

It’s been a long year for advanced biofuels. Authoring a column that will be released right before the election is not an easy task, so I asked myself, “What could I possibly write that would hold any interest for the readers of this publication when we are all really just awaiting the outcome of the big election?” I decided that a look back, as well as a look forward for some context, would be of value. 

I’ll begin by looking back over the past four years.  In 2010, the Republicans took control of the House. This followed two years of Democrat control of both houses of Congress and the White House, which produced a blizzard of legislation. What did we pass in those two years—2009 and 2010—that affected biofuels? The record reflects the passage of the American Recovery Act with $800 million in funding for the development of biofuels, and the expansion of the tax code for a number of renewable energy technologies, as well as the extension of six separate tax provisions specifically for biofuels. Those were the biggies. 

In 2011, what did we get out of the House? We began with HR 1 which attempted to limit the use of E-15 along with specific floor votes to eliminate the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. This was followed by a long string of hearings on wasting money for all types of renewable energy including biofuels, votes against funding the U.S. Department of Defense effort to build biofuels capacity under the Defense Production Act, as well as allowing five of the six biofuel tax provisions to expire.  Let me state the obvious: over the past two years, the Republicans in Congress haven’t been helpful to this industry.

So looking forward, we have a current president who has consistently supported the biofuel industry and spoke directly about it in his public remarks— including his convention speech about advanced biofuels—while only recently, Republican nominee Mitt Romney has suggested he will continue to support the renewable fuels standard (RFS). We have the secretary of the U.S. Navy supporting the use of funds to build biofuel plants and purchase biofuels while the Republican chairman of the House, Armed Services Committee and Appropriations Committee oppose the use of funds for these purposes. We have the RFS under threat, no Farm Bill, no agreement on extending the current tax credits, as well as no future funding for the DOD DPA program given that there is no appropriations legislation. Overall, there are a serious number of issues outstanding.

There is an old phrase, “elections have consequences.” It’s a good one, and the choice is yours.  I have been around long enough to know that after the election we may have “more flexibility” from the winners on either side of the aisle, but the past two years have laid down a set of data points that suggest no matter what your party affiliation is, we need to do a better job speaking to rural Republicans about the jobs that have already been created and those that are forthcoming from the advanced biofuels sector.  This should not be an election where the biofuels industry is in a winner-take-all position. Advanced biofuels should not be a partisan issue; it should be a fundamental component of America's energy policy options set in the future.  The phrase “all of the above” should be the operative path for America’s energy policy.  So let’s stick together, work harder on both sides of the aisle, make more noise about what our industry is already delivering for America, and above all, get out there and vote.  See you after the election!

Author: Michael McAdams
President, Advanced Biofuels Association
(202) 469-5140