One of the biggest energy acts in history was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 boosts renewable fuels opportunities and requires major U.S. sources to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
On the agriculture front, the legislation allows farmers and ranchers to fully participate in a market-based carbon offset program, which permits payment for farm activities that help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson led the fight to recognize and reward the agriculture sector for conservation activities and clean energy production. One of the Peterson amendments to the legislation creates a workable agricultural offsets market under the jurisdiction of the USDA (instead of the Environmental Protection Agency, as initially prescribed) and will explicitly exempt agriculture from a GHG emissions cap while also creating opportunities for producers to be a part of the solution for addressing climate change.
The bill also boosts the renewable fuels industry by eliminating regulatory requirements that unfairly restrict U.S. renewable energy production. It also prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from holding U.S. biofuels producers responsible for land use changes in other countries, which has been a source of major controversy and debate in the ethanol and biodiesel industries.
It also includes a program that will help fund the installation of blender pumps, making clean-burning renewable fuels available to more Americans.
"After more than three decades of being held hostage to the influence of foreign energy suppliers, this legislation at long last begins to break our addictions to foreign oil and puts us on a path to true energy security,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Other key provisions in the legislation include:
- Requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
- Invests $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
- Mandates new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.
- Protects consumers from energy price increases. According to recent analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation will cost each household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 (not including energy efficiency savings).
The bill's agriculture provisions had the support of many agriculture, conservation, and forestry organizations, including the American Farmland Trust, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, American Corn Growers Association, American Forest Foundation, American Soybean Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Growth Energy, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Biodiesel Board, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, Renewable Fuels Association, United Egg Producers, Western Peanut Growers Association, and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.