US Senate to vote on amendments cutting US biofuels funding

Source: By Keith Chu,, Platts • Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Washington (Platts)–19Jun2012/228 pm EDT/1828 GMT

The US Senate plans to vote this week on three amendments to block US Agriculture Department support for renewable energy and biofuels production, but not on a Republican proposal to exempt some energy companies from new rules governing commodities swaps.

According to an amendment list circulated by the office of Senate Whip Richard Durbin, Democrat-Illinois, Republicans and Democrats agreed to vote on 72 of the hundreds of proposed amendments eligible for debate, including three that target programs to aid biofuels producers, loan guarantees and farmers that receive support to develop wind energy.

The remaining energy-related amendments are:

–A measure by Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican-Tennessee, to prevent organizations that receive loans or loan guarantees for wind energy from receiving other federal support for the project;

–An amendment by Senator Jim DeMint, Republican-South Carolina, to block the USDA from offering any loan guarantees, which would end much of the agency’s biofuels support program;

–A proposal by Senator Pat Toomey, Republican-Pennsylvania, to end all support for “biorefinery, renewable chemical, and biobased product manufacturing assistance.”

The Senate will not vote on amendments to exempt energy firms from new regulations for energy-related derivatives being written by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as part of a debate on the farm bill, according to Democratic leaders.

Senators Mike Crapo, Republican-Idaho, and Mike Johanns, Republican-Nebraska, had offered an amendment that would have offered an explicit exemption for non-financial end users, including certain energy firms, from yet-to-be-finalized margin rules for swaps, which are required under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The farm bill, officially the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (S. 3240), sets US agriculture and food aid policy and includes mandatory funding for a host of farm programs. It also provides $800 million in mandatory funding for biofuels programs, including $216 million for companies that produce biofuels, and funding for farmers that grow energy crops.

Although the bill attracted bipartisan support in the Senate Agriculture Committee, congressional observers have said election-year politics and general inertia may prevent the bill from moving forward this year.

Meanwhile, in the US House of Representatives, Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat-Ohio, on Monday introduced the Rural Energy Investment Act, which mirrors the Senate farm bill’s energy portion.