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Algae Perspectives by Mary Rosenthal

Legislative Update

June 18, 2012

May was a busy month in Washington for the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) and other biofuels groups. We have been working aggressively with the ABFA, BIO, A4A, the Farm Bureau and other associations to fend off attacks on biofuels during debate on the Farm Bill as well as the National Defense Authorization Act.

Below are summaries of the current state of play on these bills and other legislative activity.

Farm Bill

We expect that the Farm Bill will be considered on the Senate floor in June. At that time, there may be amendments offered to strip mandatory funding and perhaps even to eliminate or further modify the Energy Title. ABO will continue to monitor the Farm Bill and will let ABO members know about upcoming floor action. When we learn of possible amendments that would affect ABO’s membership, we will reach out with an “Action Alert” so that you can contact your Senators and/or Representatives.

Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill

The House version of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Energy and other agencies, was expected to be considered on the House floor during the first week of June. The House bill includes $15 million for algae research and development. ABO expects that this level of funding will be maintained in the floor consideration of the bill. The Senate version of the Energy and Water bill includes $30 million, as was requested in the President’s Budget. These numbers will be negotiated by a conference committee comprised of members from both the House and the Senate. When the conference committee on the Energy and Water bill is announced, ABO members may be asked to contact the House and Senate in support of the higher funding level. Timing of the conference committee deliberations is unknown at this point.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

In May several amendments were offered to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that attempt to slow or halt the military’s use of biofuels; such as one amendment to prohibit DoD funds from being used for the production or purchase of alternative fuel if the cost exceeds the cost of traditional fossil fuels. This comes despite a long tradition of the military taking the lead in developing new technologies that can provide the edge they need, and that also benefit the nation as a whole. Think of DoD funding for the internet, or even the Navy’s first steam-powered ships that vastly outperformed sails but were also expensive and of limited commercial availability.

If the military had reliable sources of biofuels it would have an unparalleled strategic advantage. No longer would the tanks, jets and ships that we build to defend the nation need to be fueled by fossil fuels that often must be purchased from abroad. The military budget would be less susceptible to swings in prices that can come from events beyond our control (and often in control of unfriendly nations).

A source of biofuels for the military would be an unmatched strategic asset, and the best way to develop that asset is to promote a commercial biofuel industry here in the U.S. – leveraging our farming and agricultural advantages. Unfortunately partisan politics has needlessly intervened, and a few members in Congress are trying to block the latest effort by the Navy to conduct large-scale testing and help nurture the development of a national biofuels industry and the innovation and jobs it will create.

ABO members and algae enthusiasts should contact their Congressional delegation and tell them that supporting biofuels in the NDAA is the right thing to do. The NDAA’s biofuels provisions will develop an indispensible strategic asset, and have the effect of doing the same for consumers who are also paying a steep price for our dependence on foreign oil.

I urge you to take three minutes and call or email your Congressional delegation. You can find your delegation’s contact info on this search page available at USA.gov.

Let’s all help the industry take this step forward.

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