Ag, Energy Appropriations Bill Passes Out of Committee – Deep Cuts to Bioenergy Programs

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017

On Wednesday, July 12, House Appropriators passed several spending bills for FY2018 out of committee, including budget proposals for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), EPA, and the Department of Energy.  While both bills provide spending levels well above the President’s proposed cuts, there are still deep cuts to bioenergy and biofuels programs. It is unclear whether the bill will be taken up as part of omnibus spending legislation, or if spending bills will go individually to the House floor.  The House has not yet settled on a top-line budget for each agency for FY2018.

USDA – Energy Title

The spending package provides $144.9 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), $867 million less in discretionary spending than 2017 spending levels but $4.64 billion (both mandatory and discretionary) above President Trump’s budget request. Unfortunately, the deep cuts to USDA Energy Title programs proposed in subcommittee are part of the final bill.

Within the Energy Title, programs cut include the popular Rural Energy for America Program (Sec. 9007), the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Sec. 9010) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program (Sec. 9003). For further details on these cuts, see EESI’s article on the agriculture spending bill. In addition to impacting FY2018 funding levels, the FY2018 USDA budget will help decide funding levels for the 2018 Farm Bill.

Department of Energy – Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO)

In the House bill, the Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) receives $27 million for “feedstock supply and logistics to address issues limiting production and conversion systems at large,” a significant decrease even from the President’s request.  The FY2017 budget provided $224.6 million to BETO, the President budget had requested $56.6 million for BETO, a 74 percent cut compared to 2017 funding levels.

In the House appropriations bill, joint funding between USDA, DOE and the Navy for the production of biofuels and biojet fuels for military use is discontinued.  This includes funding for the Great Green Fleet, an initiative to drive down the cost of biofuels for use by the Navy. The Bioenergy Research Centers are allocated $40 million under the DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program (in FY2017 they received $75 million).

More positively, House Appropriators direct BETO to write a report on the economic potential for using wet and gaseous wastes for baseload, renewable power, such as biogas.

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