This vote was on an amendment that would have eliminated a federal program that supports efforts to develop new fuel sources based on sewage, byproducts of paper production, and other renewable materials.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) offered the amendment during consideration of legislation that authorizes federal programs to assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Toomey’s amendment would have eliminated the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biorefinery Assistance Program, which helps developers build and equip refineries that produce renewable fuels.
Sen. Toomey argued that Congress should save money by cutting the program, which he said was not needed because the federal government supports production of ethanol in other ways. The Biorefinery Assistance Program does not support production of ethanol from corn, but ethanol produced from some other plant materials, such as grass or wood chips, is eligible for assistance.
“The fact is, the taxpayers are already subsidizing ethanol plants in many ways,” Sen. Toomey said. “The federal government already provides a tax credit of $1 a gallon to ethanol. The federal government creates a mandate that forces consumers to buy this product whether they want to or not, thereby creating a market for ethanol. We provide grants for ethanol. Do taxpayers also have to risk their money by guaranteeing loans to subsidize this activity? I do not think that is a good idea.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who opposed the amendment, argued that the program was helping develop new sources of biofuels that would help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.
“We are talking about, first of all, advanced biofuels using food waste or animal waste or biomass materials. We are talking about bio-based manufacturing, which is an exciting new opportunity,” Sen. Stabenow said. “In fact, if you drive a Ford vehicle today, a new vehicle, a new Chevy Volt, you sit on seats with soy-based foam that is biodegradable, more lightweight, and you get better fuel economy, grown by American soybean growers. This is the opportunity for new growth in jobs that is in this bill.”
Sen. Toomey’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 36-63. Voting “yea” were 35 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 11 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to eliminate a federal program that supports efforts to develop new fuel sources based on sewage, byproducts of paper production, and other renewable materials.