August 1, 2014

Harkin disappointed that alternative energy credits were stripped from transportation bill

An amendment that would have boosted alternative energy production in Iowa was stripped from the massive transportation bill that passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. The bill would spend 109-billion dollars over two years on a host of vital projects, including highway construction and auto safety, but Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says two key elements were not included.

Harkin says, “It was disappointing that the Stabenow amendment, Senator (Debbie) Stabenow from Michigan, offered an amendment to extend the wind production tax credit and the biodiesel tax credit, but it failed on almost a straight party line vote.” Iowa is home to 40 ethanol plants and 13 biodiesel plants, in addition to a host of businesses involved in wind energy production.

An ethanol plant in Nebraska announced this week it’s shutting down temporarily due to a drop in demand sparked by rising gasoline prices. Harkin says alternative energy production is vital to helping wean the U.S. off its dependence on foreign oil and this amendment was much-needed.

Harkin says, “That’s a shame because the industry is starting to close down, parts won’t be ordered, unless it’s clear that this can be put in by December 31st.” Despite the setback, he says all’s not lost. “The hope I have now is that we will try to attach the production tax credits on other legislation,” Harkin says.

“We’ll probably get it into the final bill that we’ll pass towards the end of the year. I just want to reassure everyone that one way or the other, we are going to extend the wind production tax credit and the biodiesel credit. It will be done.” Senators had to move quickly on the legislation as it renews federal gas and diesel taxes which expire on March 31st.

Those taxes generate $110-million per day, to pay for various transportation-related programs.