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Grassley speaks to ACORE forum

ACORE LogoBy The Iowa Statesman

 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) spoke this morning to a forum hosted by the American Council On Renewable Energy Policy. In his speech, which focused on providing an outlook on renewable energy and federal government policy, he said the renewable energy industry “needs more certainty from government.”

ACORE represents the leadership of the renewable energy sector. Grassley, long regarded as the “Father of the Production Tax Credit” for wind energy, has a record of strong support for renewable energy sources. He took the opportunity to tout Iowa’s renewable energy resume.

“Iowa is a leader is feeding our nation and the world,” he said. “We lead the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, hogs and eggs.  Iowa also leads the nation in renewable energy production. It’s the largest producer of alternative fuels. It has the capacity to produce more than 4 billion gallons of clean-burning ethanol and biodiesel, including 22 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity.”

Grassley also noted that Iowa ranks third in the nation in wind energy capacity, and that the state produces more than 27 percent of the energy for its own needs from wind, which leads the U.S. He said Iowa’s farmers are proving they can “simultaneously produce the food, feed, fuel, and fiber that our country needs.”

“During the past 30 years, we’ve witnessed tremendous growth in the renewable energy industry,” he said. “Because of the success of America’s biofuel producers, renewable fuels now account for ten percent of our nation’s transportation fuel supply.”

Grassley also said “homegrown biofuels” were reducing U.S. dependence on “finite fossil fuels,” keeping more money in the U.S., rather than sending it to Persian Gulf countries that may wish to do Americans harm. He then spoke of his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and his efforts to thwart “Big Oil” and “Big Food,” as well as the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, which he said was undermining “the incentive to invest and develop the next generation of biofuels.”

“In February, I sent a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy with 32 of my Senate colleagues to press the EPA to live up to its legal obligation to provide certainty to the biodiesel industry and the thousands of workers it employs by setting long-delayed production standards,” he said. “I’m pleased to announce that today, Senator Klobuchar and I are sending a similar letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy to request that it reverse course from the 2014 proposed rule and craft targets for domestic biofuels that reflect Congress’ intended goals for the RFS.  This bipartisan letter has the support of 37 members of the Senate.”

Grassley said the U.S. needs volume requirements that implement the RFS consistent with the law, so that the RFS continues to promote investment in advanced biofuels and the infrastructure necessary to get the fuels into the market. He added that biofuel producers need federal policies that promote stable, secure energy.

“We need energy sources that enhance our national security, not threaten it,” he said. “And most of all, we need to use the resources God gave us here at home, whether that be domestic oil and gas, nuclear power, or wind and biofuels.  Over the past thirty years, our national security and economic well-being has been too dependent on oil imports from tin-horn dictators and regimes that sought to do us harm.”

Pointing to the “big gurgling mess in the Middle East,” Grassley said it’s necessary for the U.S. to wean itself from foreign oil. He said there wouldn’t be a need to put a naval fleet in harm’s way to protect shipping lanes for biofuels produced in the Midwest. He said U.S. foreign policy can’t be dictated by the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

He said he has “worked for many years” to provide the certainty necessary to grow the domestic U.S. wind industry, noting that renewable energy sources, such as hydropower, wind, and solar, currently produce 15 percent of U.S. electricity. Last year, nearly 50 percent of all new electric generating capacity came from renewable energy, he added.

“I know firsthand the boom and bust cycle that exists for renewable energy producers when Congress fails to extend critically important tax incentives,” he said. “The lapse of renewable energy incentives has created a lot of uncertainty and slowed growth in the renewable industry.

“This serves only to hamper the strides made toward a viable self-sustainable renewable energy and fuel sector.  In recent years, there’s been an increasing amount of opposition to some renewable electricity tax incentives.  I’m sympathetic to the argument that the tax code has gotten too cluttered with too many special interest provisions.  That’s the reason many of us have been clamoring for tax reform for years now.

“But, just because we haven’t cleaned up the tax code in a comprehensive way doesn’t mean that we should pull the rug out from under domestic renewable energy producers.  Doing so would cost jobs, and harm our economy, the environment and our national security.”

Grassley then noted the 100-year-old oil and gas industry and the 50-year-old nuclear energy industry each continue to receive tax credits. He added the wind energy industry is the only one to advance a proposal to phase-out tax credits.

“I authored the wind incentive in 1992,” he said. “I know it won’t go on forever. It was never meant to, and it shouldn’t. I’m happy to discuss a responsible, multi-year phase out of the wind tax credit … But, any phase-out must be done in the context of comprehensive tax reform, where all energy tax provisions are on the table. And, it should be done responsibly over a few years, to provide certainty and ensure a viable industry.”

Grassley said good tax policy requires certainty that can only come from long-term predictable tax laws. He said businesses need certainty in the tax code so they can plan and invest accordingly. The only sound way to reach this goal, he added, is through comprehensive tax reform.

“Targeting certain provisions for elimination outside tax reform makes little sense,” he said. “I will work for a responsible transition for the wind production tax credit and hope to achieve a sensible policy for those who depend on it.”