An amendment that would have boosted alternative energy production in Nebraska was stripped from the massive transportation bill that passed the U-S Senate on Wednesday.
The bill would spend $109-billion 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.”
Nebraska had two commercial biodiesel plants, Horizon Biofuels in Fremont and Northeast Nebraska Biofuel in Scribner. Both have shut down, but could be reopened if market conditions improve.
Also, an ethanol plant near Sutherland, Nebraska, announced this week it’s closed 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.
He 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.
Nebraska is the nation’s number-two ethanol producer, behind only Iowa.