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House passes energy bill with larger renewable fuel mandates

Voting largely along party lines, the House Thursday passed an energy bill that will increase the renewable fuel standard (RFS) from the current mandate of 7.5 billion gallons (by 2012) to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The bill requires 9 billion gallons of renewable fuel use in 2008 and ramps up to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

If the bill becomes law, "we'll send our energy dollars to the Midwest, not to the Middle East," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said just before the vote. Only 14 Republicans voted for the bill, and seven Democrats voted against it.

The vote was welcomed by many agricultural and renewable fuels organizations.

"This is an extraordinary victory for biofuels," Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, told Agriculture Online.

The bill still faces an uncertain future. President Bush has threatened to veto it because it includes a requirement that 15% of electricity must come from wind and other renewable sources by 2020. The President also objects to a rollback of tax breaks for oil companies.

The Senate could vote on the bill as early as this Saturday, but it will have a harder time getting the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

"If for some reason, they are unable to do so, they will scale it down to something more manageable and ping-pong it back to the House," Jennings said.

Jennings is confident that the RFS will survive in any final legislation.

"In fact, I think the renewable fuel standard is the glue that holds the bill together," he said.

Part of that RFS includes a 15-billion-gallon mandate (by 2015) for grain-based ethanol while the rest would come from cellulosic ethanol and other new generation biofuels.

It also has a new renewable requirement for diesel fuel -- 500 million gallons of biodiesel and biomass-based diesel fuel must be blended into the diesel pool in 2009, gradually ramping up to one billion gallons by 2012.

Voting largely along party lines, the House Thursday passed an energy bill that will increase the renewable fuel standard (RFS) from the current mandate of 7.5 billion gallons (by 2012) to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

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