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Congress is Back – What You Should Know

by Leticia Phillips on Sep 14, 2011

With August recess in the rearview mirror and last bit of sand tumbling from our flip-flops, we’re all turning our attention away from sunny beaches and back to Washington. The ethanol debate has seen its fair share of twists and turns over the past year, and it’s okay if you missed some of them during vacation. So, to prepare for the final legislative push of 2011, here’s a quick recap of everything you need to know.

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With August recess in the rearview mirror and last bit of sand tumbling from our flip-flops, we’re all turning our attention away from sunny beaches and back to Washington.  The ethanol debate has seen its fair share of twists and turns over the past year, and it’s okay if you missed  some of them during vacation.  So, to prepare for the final legislative push of 2011, here’s a quick recap of everything you need to know.

Three Key Milestones

1. Senate Says “No More” – On June 16th the Senate passed an amendment by an overwhelming margin of 73 - 27 to end the ethanol tax credit and import tariff established in 1980.  This bi-partisan vote sent a strong signal that it’s time to reform U.S. ethanol policy and develop a global market for clean energy.

2. Ethanol Producers Say “We Don’t Need It” – After 30 years of government support, even experts within the industry agree that ethanol producers are prepared for life without the subsidies.  Here’s what some of them are saying:

3. Ethanol Left Out of Debt Deal – During the heat of the debate over the debt limit crisis, a bipartisan trio of Senators unveiled a compromise plan that would have ended the ethanol tax credit and import tariff mid-year, applied most of the $2 billion saved to deficit reduction and directed the remaining funds to support advanced biofuels and alternative fueling infrastructure.  Senator’s Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Tune (R-SD) worked tirelessly to build their compromise into the final debt limit agreement.  In the end, however, the compromise was left out of the final plan. Senator Feinstein concluded, "I feel terrible because I think it was a good agreement and should have been enacted."

The Endgame

The general sentiment around the country and on Capitol Hill is that time and interest are running thin for any legislation action to extend the tax credit or the tariff beyond their December 31st, 2011 expiration date. And while this is the best chance in 30 years to eliminate these unnecessary subsidies, there's still work to be done to secure victory with this important initiative.

Brazil ended government subsidies for ethanol more than a decade ago and eliminated its ethanol tariff early last year.  It’s time for America to do the same.  UNICA believes that everyone wins in an open market because renewable fuels will be produced at a higher quality and lower cost when businesses are allowed to compete.

But to make it a reality, we need your help! Congress still needs to hear from clean energy advocates like you. Tell them stay the course for these last four months and let the unfair and unnecessary subsidies expire on December 31st, 2011. The time has come to end the $6 billion annual taxpayer handouts and lower fuel prices giving us access to cleaner, more affordable renewable fuels like sugarcane ethanol.

copyright 2010 Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association