Mid-year checkpoint: biodiesel tax credit?

By Luke Geiver | May 02, 2011

The 2010 political climate was dominated by health care, then unemployment, and finally, just before the end of the year, taxes. What does it all mean for 2011 and any hope that legislation including a renewal of the biodiesel tax incentive will make it to Congress for a vote? Not much, or a lot, depending on how one looks at the political landscape and the role each hot topic on the Hill plays in shaping what gets a yes or no vote.

On one hand, it might not matter what is happening in Washington as much as it does at the pump. For the month of April, the U.S. set a record high for gasoline prices, and the major oil companies reported a first quarter profit of roughly 45 percent, or, $390 million dollars a day. Combine those astounding numbers with the president’s call to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by a third by 2025, and the positive attention the USDA’s Secretary Tom Vilsack has brought to Midwestern biofuels facilities through a series of stops, and there might just be enough material for Congress to point to in favor of a vote that could extend a tax incentive for biodiesel.

Comments made by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, might not hurt the chances for an incentive to pass either. During a tour of an Ohio commercial agriculture equipment manufacturing facility, Boehner spoke about the high price of gasoline and said that he is willing to do away with federal subsidies for big oil companies. But, even with the redundant point of energy prices rising mixed in with several key governmental officials pointing towards the necessity for change in the country’s energy landscape, the industry also knows that even if biodiesel seems to be an obvious answer, there are other issues at play.

Right now, those issues include the nation’s budget and efforts to reduce debt. “It’s clearly an environment where people will be looking for significant cuts all across the board,” says Ben Evans, director of federal communications for the National Biodiesel Board. Because those issues are currently this year’s healthcare, Evans says there hasn’t been any movement with tax legislation for biodiesel, or any other tax-related legislation for that matter. But, he adds, “We are fortunate that we don’t have a lot of the direct spending when you are looking for direct savings.” While Evans says that there isn’t currently any significant pending legislation including the biodiesel tax incentive, “once that stuff (tax legislation) starts moving forward, we’ll start jumping in.” And when they do, he notes, “There is a compelling argument that we are addressing a critical area of critical national priority,” he says, “and we are doing it in a pretty promising way.” 


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