Energy Bill Headed To Vote

The Republican-written draft U.S. energy bill is expected to win easy approval in a U.S. House of Representatives vote this week, but will face opposition in the narrowly-divided Senate.

A bipartisan House-Senate conference committee was meeting Monday afternoon to vote on the broad bill. Congressional Democrats, who were largely shut out of the bill-writing process, are seeking a number of amendments to the draft. But with Republicans in control of the committee, any changes are likely to be limited.

Once the bill leaves the conference committee, it cannot be amended further and will face straight up-or-down votes in the House and Senate.

Some Senate Democrats have threatened a filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill, but congressional aides say ethanol provisions will make it hard for Midwestern Democrats to oppose the legislation.

As expected, the bill, which was released Saturday, mandates U.S. use of renewable fuels,(which primarily means ethanol) be gradually boosted to a level of 5 billion gallons per year by 2012, starting with a usage requirement of 3.1 billion gains in 2005.

After 2012, the earmark for renewable fuels such as ethanol would be their percentage of the U.S. fuel market when the 5 billion-gallon level is reached.

The bill would allow the Environmental Protection Agencey to waive all or part of the Renewable Fuels Standard if it would "severely harm the economy or environment of a state" by reducing the quantity of alternative fuel that must be used.

A waiver would last one year. Justification for a waiver could not include impact on highway tax receipts.

In the first year of the program, the Energy Department would analyze whether the renewable fuels requirement will result in "significant adverse consumer impacts" in 2005 and make any waiver recommendations.

After that, the EPA and DOE must do an annual evaluation on whether the requirements should be adjusted due to supplies, likely fuel and food prices, and air quality.

Editors note: Richard Brock, The Corn and Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.