Proposed Legislation Seeks to Encourage Biofuel Industry

By: Derek Leslie, Staff Member

A new bill making the rounds in Congress could have a significant impact on agriculture across the country. Charles Abbot, House bill would prevent EPA regulating carbon, Reuters, Feb. 3, 2010,
. While the legislation, introduced by Representatives Ike Skelton, Collin Peterson, and Jo Ann Emerson, has received attention mostly for its provisions amending the Clean Air Act to exclude six greenhouse gases from being listed as "air pollutants," frustrating a recent EPA ruling that held otherwise, it also is meant to spur growth in the biofuel industry. Id. The bill would encourage greater use of biofuels in two ways. First, it would adopt a broad definition of biomass. This would include crops, trees, algae, and manure. All of which could be used to make renewable fuels. Id. The legislation would also allow for the use of biomass from federal forests and conservation areas. Secondly, the legislation would prevent the EPA from considering greenhouse gas emissions from foreign land use change, such as forest clearing or the development of cropland, when determining the relative emissions levels of fuel production. Id. These developments, their proponents claim, will help spur the growth of the renewable fuel industry in the United States. Id.

The new bill is far from a done deal however. It faces opposition from the Obama Administration, as well as from many members of Congress. Id. While comprehensive climate change legislation has stalled out in the Senate, this bill may fare better given its more limited scope. Nevertheless, due to its controversial provisions excluding some greenhouse gas from being listed as "air pollutants," it is likely to face a tough fight during this election year.