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By Staff | Aug 20, 2010

While Republicans are expected to make gains in congressional seats this fall, it would take an unprecedented landslide in order for Democrats to lose the Senate.

Majority leader, Harry Reid, is pro-gun, pro-ethanol, pro-ag, which is a lot better than Chuck Schumer, who is none of those things, but is waiting in the wings to take over the majority post if Reid is defeated, but Democrats retain control.

After Reid’s handling of the energy bill, which excluded all provisions for renewable energy, even for wind, my score of his political work fell to zero. If those who profess to be with you won’t work for you, it’s not much different than being against you.

The Wall Street Journal noted that Reid, “Unveiled a new energy bill whose major provisions include a Cash for Clunkers replay for home appliances and a $5.8 billion subsidy for natural gas vehicles. In other words, the green lobby has suffered a landmark defeat.”

Reid must be playing politics. There seems to be a consensus that U.S. energy policy is unsustainable, yet the Senate Energy Bill sustains the current energy policy. If they won’t put Renewable Energy provisions in the energy bill, they do not support them. They have no intention of reauthorizing biofuel subsidies.

POET CEO, Jeff Broin, called the Senate energy bill a missed opportunity. “By omitting Growth Energy’s Fueling Freedom Plan from the energy bill, Senate leadership missed an opportunity to significantly lessen Americans’ dependence on foreign oil. Instead of spending taxpayer money on unproven technologies, policymakers should invest in the infrastructure that would allow for the expansion of the only renewable energy source that is displacing significant volumes of foreign oil today: ethanol.”

Even the Des Moines Register gave Reid a thistle, saying, “A thistle goes to U.S. Senate for stripping a renewable energy mandate from its version of an energy bill. As the Register’s Phillip Brasher reported last week, the construction of wind farms has dropped 71 percent nationally, and disappeared in Iowa.

If Congress is serious about energy from other than fossil fuels, it must encourage growth of renewable sources.” Sen. Charles Grassley is the highest ranking pro-ethanol legislator that we have in Congress, but he is of the wrong party to tell Harry Reid what to do.

I have always believed that we needed biofuel-friendly elected officials from both parties as political winds shift and you don’t want to be blown away when they change. The Democrats control the Senate. The question is then, where is Sen. Tom Harkin?

Democratic congressional leadership sets the agenda and shapes what is in the final bills. If Harkin can’t get renewable energy included in an energy bill, then what good is he? He is not up for re-election this year which is likely unfortunate, because politicians tend to be more attentive when approaching elections. Democrats profess to care about jobs. What has brought more economic development and growth to rural agriculture than renewable energy?

Washington’s energy policy is going to kill economic growth in the rural Midwest. They don’t get it. Harry Reid doesn’t care about renewable energy any more so I don’t care about him either. The Tea Party can have him.

Not only is political support for biofuel subsidies in Congress on life support, if not dead, but key members of Congress are coming after the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending decision to raise the ethanol cap in fuel blends trying to kill that, too. It’s a bipartisan effort. House Energy Committee leaders, Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, and minority leaders, Joe Barton and Fred Upton, sent a letter to EPA asking them to nix the increase in blend cap or muddle it up to the point that it is unworkable for retailers to implement.

They put way too much work into formulating the long list of questions they want EPA to answer before approving an increase in the blend cap to E-15, so that you know they were written for them by some lobbyist intending to kill the regulatory change.

I asked about the absence of Tom Harkin who appears to have no influence benefiting bio-fuels legislation, despite his time in the Senate. I can ask the same question of congressional Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King. I realize King is probably off working some talk show, promoting his conservative ideology, building fences along Mexico, so can’t be bothered with our problems and solutions, despite the importance of biofuel to his district.

Latham, however, cares about agriculture. These guys are not freshman congressmen, but appear to have no influence over their colleagues on the energy committee. The same can be said of Leonard Boswell.

The entire Iowa Congressional delegation appears to be powerless, in influencing the direction of the biofuel agenda. Ethanol opposition is getting its money’s worth from the lobbyists they have hired to kill biofuels. The politicians that the ethanol opposition has hired appear to work a lot harder with a lot more influence than pro-biofuel representatives.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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