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Harkin blames biodiesel tax woes on GOP stalling tactics

Agriculture.com Staff 12/17/2009 @ 1:11pm

If the biodiesel industry wants to survive into 2010, it may have to convince one or two Republican senators to break ranks from GOP stalling tactics.

The House of Representatives has already approved a bill that extends the $1 a gallon tax credit for 100% biodiesel for another year. But it's going nowhere in the Senate. Without Senate passage, the credit expires on December 31.

On Wednesday, Iowa Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley questioned Congress' commitment to green jobs in the biodiesel industry.

"As committee chairman and author of the biodiesel tax credit, I understood the need to keep the tax credit current. Now, Democratic leaders are dropping the ball, despite their stated interest in alternative energy and green jobs," Grassley said in a statement released by his office. "Between this tax credit lapse and the regulatory inaction by the EPA, the biodiesel industry will lose an estimated 23,000 good-paying, green jobs if the Administration and Democratic leaders don't act quickly. The President has said he's a major supporter of biofuels and green jobs. The President and Democratic leaders should act before the end of the year to preserve the tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. biodiesel industry. This lack of action so far is especially inexcusable, considering the House and Senate have been in session nearly continuously for months."

His fellow Iowan, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said Thursday that Republican stalling tactics on every piece of legislation are holding up the tax credit, too.

"We wanted to put it on the defense bill that is before us," Harkin said Thursday. "We could not find one Republican that would support it."

The Senate needs at least one GOP vote, since it may not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster on the defense appropriations bill. Senator Russ Feingold, an opponent of sending more troops to Afghanistan, is expected to be the lone Democrat voting against the defense bill. When that bill finally comes up for a vote, it's still likely to pass by 90 votes, Harkin said.

Harkin said the Republicans are using every tactic available to try to slow legislation moving through the Senate and that they've already delayed several bills that, when passed, had strong majorities.

The delay in getting the biodiesel tax credit extended "is largely a hostage of the Republican scorched earth policy," he said.

The defense spending bill, health care legislation and an increase in the federal debt are all expected to come up for votes before the Senate recesses for Christmas.

Harkin was also asked Thursday about the fact the USDA's Farm Service Agency appears to be approving mainly timber companies and paper companies to receive funds for a Farm Bill program that will eventually pay farmers for growing biomass for fuel, the biomass crop assistance program.

Harkin said he'll push for Senate review of the USDA interpretation of the program early next year. He wants it to focus on true biomass and pay for new practices. The paper industry has been criticized for tapping into a federal tax credit for biomass for using waste products for fuel, which is an existing practice.

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