Update on Energy, Farm and Trade Policy Issues

July 30, 2008 07:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Executive summary on key policy topics

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

-- Karsner to depart Dept. of Energy post: Alexander "Andy" Karsner, the assistant secretary of energy for efficiency and renewable energy, will resign from the department at the end of August, the Department of Energy announced Wednesday. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement that Karsner "has been instrumental in accelerating the research and development of cellulosic biofuels, solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power, as well as advanced vehicle battery storage and hydrogen fuel cells." Karsner frequently testified to Congress regarding renewable fuels, and has been an aggressive supporter of keeping the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) at the levels contained in legislation signed into law last December. Karsner said June 12 that granting a waiver of the renewable fuel requirement for 2008 "would be devastating" to the future of the renewable fuels industry.

-- Senate Ag panel hearing on food/fuel debate set for Aug. 18 in Omaha: I previously reported that the Senate Ag Committee would hold a field hearing on the food vs. fuel debate, but the date of the Omaha, Neb.-based field hearing is now set for Aug. 18. The hearing will focus on food, feed and fuel issues and will likely come after the Environmental Protection Agency decides on whether or not to modify the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate.

-- Hearing today on energy issues: Western hemisphere energy topics, particularly Brazilian ethanol and declining Mexican oil production, will be discussed during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing today. Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) wants the panel to explore Brazil's development of alternative energies such as sugar cane-based ethanol and its relationship to the memorandum of understanding with the US on biofuels signed in March 2007.

-- Energy battles continue in Congress: A very partisan dispute in Congress continued over dealing with fuel prices. The Senate on Wednesday rejected the energy tax extension measure for the fourth time. The White House issued a veto threat. Senate Republicans insist they be allowed to offer amendments to the energy commodity speculation bill (S 3268). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) withdrew his previous offer of four amendments for each party when the GOP leadership would not agree to a vote on the tax-extender measure.

Over in the House, the energy speculation bill pushed by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) failed to get a required two-thirds vote for passage on the suspension calendar, failing by a vote of 276-151. The president announced he would veto the measure anyway.

Comments: Democratic leadership say they will try one more time today, but many observers think this contentious issue will be punted to September, when lawmakers return.

-- Interior details plan to accelerate offshore leasing if Congress allows: Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Wednesday that he has directed the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to draft a plan to expedite leasing of oil production sites that could be exploited should Congress lift a moratorium on offshore drilling. Kempthorne directed the MMS to begin work on a new five-year plan governing offshore oil leasing that would encompass all areas that would be eligible for drilling under a proposal by President Bush to lift the federal ban. The new leasing plan would take effect in 2010, two years ahead of the current schedule, he said.

-- Bush to make another energy speech today: This time President Bush will visit West Virginia to make comments on the coal industry. On Wednesday, the president again called on Congress to pass energy legislation that would increase domestic production before leaving for the August recess.

-- Farm bill implementation funding included in supplemental proposal: Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) on Wednesday released details for a second supplemental measure that will be debated in September. The measure provides funding for infrastructure, energy initiatives and natural disaster relief. Included in the $24.1 billion package is $172 million to assist USDA in upgrading computer systems and implementing the 2008 Farm Bill.

Energy speculation monitoring funds also included. Of note, the second supplemental would include funds to monitor speculators -- the Commodities Future Trading Commission would get $13.1 million for enhanced enforcement and oversight.

-- South Korea court orders TV station to correct BSE report: A South Korean court today ordered a leading TV station to air a correction on its report about BSE that contributed to widespread protests against US beef imports. The Seoul District Court ruled that the report by MBC, one of the country's three major broadcasters, on the danger of BSE was partially wrong and exaggerated the threat.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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