Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator [D-WA]
[UPDATE 12/21/2010] The tax credit of $1.00 per gallon has been officially reinstated. From Biofuels Digest:
John Plaza, CEO, Imperium Renewables:
Today marks a tremendous event for the biodiesel industry. With both the Senate and House including the biodiesel tax credit in the President’s Tax Package, we can get back to the job of supplying our Nation with renewable fuels made in America. We are thrilled that Congress has extended the biodiesel blender’s tax credit and we must thank U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, and U.S. Congressman Dicks along with many others for their tireless support of our industry, and Imperium Renewables in particular. We greatly appreciate the leadership of President Obama and his administration’s efforts to ensure that these job-creating investments in the U.S. biofuels industry were part of the overall bill.
[UPDATE 9/21/2010] From an article on Bright Energy titled:
Democrats blamed as Senate rejects biodiesel tax credits
Senators threw out the amendment to the "small business bill" by 58 votes to 41But get this:
The "small business bill" passed by a 61-38 vote, with just two Republicans crossing party lines to support the bill.
How do you know when a politician is lying? His or her lips are moving.
[UPDATE 1/24/2010] See Obama's speech lambasting the five goofballs on the Supreme court who may have driven the last nail into our already dysfunctional political process.
Original article written in January 2010 continues below:
Rather than write an email to my senator to air my concerns about her pending biofuel legislation, I'm going air them on this blog because, well, that's what blogs are for.
Does she realize that Seattle and Berkeley dropped food-based biodiesel last year?
Is she unaware of the peer reviewed science demonstrating the links between agricultural expansion, eutrophication of waterways, and biodiversity loss?
Does she know that biodiesel made from Midwest soy does not at this time qualify as a low carbon fuel per the EPA?
Does she know that the food riots in dozens of countries in the summer of 2008 were caused in large part by speculation fueled by government mandates for and subsidization of corn ethanol and soy biodiesel?
Assuming that, as a United States Senator, she must be aware of all of these issues, I'm at a loss as to why she has introduced more legislation to yet again extend the blending credit for biodiesel.
I wrote a short op-ed that was accepted for publication in the latest issue of Subsidy Watch (produced by the Global Subsidies Initiative). Following is an excerpt:
In 2004 the U.S. Congress created a USD$ 1/gallon (US$ 0.264/litre) blenders' tax credit for biodiesel that was slated to expire in 2006. But in 2005 it extended the tax credit through the end of 2008 and, before that year was up, extended it again, through 2009.
Predictably, last autumn, legislation was introduced to extend the tax credit for yet another year, through 2010.
Now this, from Agriculture Online:
Farmer leaders in the soybean industry are asking farmers to tell members of Congress that they support two stand-alone bills that would put the tax credit back into effect for five years.
In the Senate, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced S.1589 to do that. In the House, a similar bill, H.R. 4070, has been introduced by Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Representative John Shimkus (R-IL).
I know a guy who owns a diesel powered Jeep Liberty. It uses twice as much fuel per mile as the midsized hatchback I drive. Thanks to the dollar per gallon biodiesel blending subsidy, fellow citizens were paying him $15 every time he filled up with biodiesel (95% of which is made out of virgin soy or canola vegetable oil diverted from food processors).
Note that three out of the four senators are from farming powerhouses where corn and soybeans are the dominant crops. They are legally securing future campaign funding from the powerful and well-funded farm lobby.
The big biodiesel refinery here in Washington State only employs a few dozen people and has always bought its vegetable oil from Canada, because it was cheaper, and until the European Union forced them to stop, that same refinery was shipping most of its biodiesel overseas to undercut other producers with the dollar per gallon blending subsidy it was receiving.
Shortly after hoovering up funding from wealthy venture capitalists, as well as ten million dollars from the City of Seattle Employee's Retirement System, this refinery shut down from a lack of operating capital. During the food price crisis in the summer of 2008, soy based biodiesel was selling for $6 a gallon in Seattle as food producers and fuel producers bid against one another over the same feed stock.
It has recently attempted to restart operations thanks to government mandates for biodiesel use in the neighboring state of Oregon.
Making biodiesel from food has proven to be a dead end business model. Why would a politician from a state that provides very little, if any vegetable oil for biodiesel continue to support it?
I can only think of one reason for Cantwell's dedication to this dead fuel walking. She is being lobbied to bring home the bacon by a very small but very vocal minority of wealthy investors, biodiesel producers, and retailers in her state (see Obama's speech).
According to the the book Comeback America (saw it on the Daily Show last night, downloaded it from the Library today), the typical American family's share of our country's foreign debt is over five hundred thousand dollars.
From the Global Subsidies Initiative's about page:
Subsidies are powerful instruments. They can play a legitimate role in securing public goods that would otherwise remain beyond reach. But they can also be easily subverted. The interests of lobbyists and the electoral ambitions of office-holders can hijack public policy ...
But the case for scrutiny goes further. Even when subsidies are legitimate instruments of public policy, their efficacy - their fitness for purpose - must still be demonstrated. All too often, the unintended and unforeseen consequences of poorly designed subsidies overwhelm the benefits claimed for these programs. Meanwhile, the citizens who foot the bills remain in the dark ...
When subsidies are the principal cause of the perpetuation of a fundamentally unfair trading system, and lie at the root of serious environmental degradation, the questions have to be asked: Is this how taxpayers want their money spent? And should they, through their taxes, support such counterproductive outcomes?
Consider sending the senator from Washington an email, or just post something on your blog like I just did.
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