This week the U.S. Senate is considering S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA), a comprehensive energy bill that includes provisions ranging from energy efficiency to modernizing the nation’s electricity transmission grid and funding for energy research. There have also been 231 amendments filed so far, including several aimed at eliminating ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) or eliminating the RFS entirely. Senate leaders hope to pass the bill this week with a strong bipartisan vote and are trying to fend off any controversial amendments. The RFS-related amendments are among the controversial amendments that are not expected to be brought up for a vote. The American Soybean Association (ASA) and its biodiesel industry partners are monitoring the bill and the amendment process.
The bill’s provisions to increase energy efficiency, modernize the nation’s electric grid, and increase federal funding for energy research are designed to lower energy costs, improve reliability, and make the U.S. economy more competitive internationally, and they enjoy bipartisan support. However, there are some partisan and geographical differences regarding the conflicting interests of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources as well as issues unrelated to energy policy that threaten to derail the bill.
The underlying bill includes revisions to the Biomass Research & Development Initiative (BRDI), a program that is authorized under Section 9008 of the Farm Bill Energy Title. The EMPA would amend the BRDI program to provide research assistance and grants for the development of woody biomass heat and biopower projects, as well as a provision specifically including oilseed crops as eligible for the new grant program. The BRDI is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Among the many amendments that have been filed is one from Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) that would establish a federal education program to ensure landowners are given all of the federal conservation options available to them when choosing to put their land into a conservation easement. There is no indication as of yet whether the Rounds amendment will be considered.