Letters to the Pilot

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Is an energy bill too much to ask?


Maybe passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 this fall was asking too much. After all, Congress had a full plate, including a controversial Medicare passage that passed in November. Fortunately, there is still time for the $100 billion energy bill to become reality. And that's good news for America.

At one time, passage of the sensible and comprehensive energy package looked promising. The U.S. House on November 18 passed the final version of the bill 246-180 after just one hour of debate. The bill was then introduced to the Senate that same day. but on November 21, a vote to limit debate on the bill failed meaning that the door remained open for a continuing attempt to filibuster the bill. That was the beginning of the end. Several days later, Congress left town for the holidays and announced that the energy bill was off the table until next year.

One of the bill's more controversial components was also its most important one. The renewable fuels provision would set an initial standard for ethanol and biodiesel use at 3.1 billion gallons per year for 2005. That standard would increase to five billion gallons per year by 2012. In addition, the bill would include the federal phaseout of the dangerous gasoline additive MTBE which has been found to pollute groundwater in several states, including California.

Farm organizations and commodity groups strongly support these key provisions because of their positive impact on the nation's economy and environment. It is estimated that the standard would create the need for $5.3 billion in rural capital investments and more than 200,000 new jobs. In addition, it's estimated that a renewable fuel standard will add $4.5 billion annually to net farm income and decrease the nation's trade deficit by nearly $34 million.

Fortunately, efforts to make the energy bill a reality are not running on fumes. Since the 108th Congress does not end at the close of this year, the energy bill will NOT have to go back to square one next year. Instead, supporters can look at the current delay as just that - a delay...

America is waiting.

- Aaron Putze,

Iowa Farm Bureau