WASHINGTON — The Senate’s 73-to-27 vote to wipe out a $5 billion tax credit for U.S. ethanol producers may be largely symbolic.
The Senate approved an amendment to end the 45-cent-a-gallon subsidy the government gives refiners and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil and other countries.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., will be tacked on to an underlying economic development bill, which faces a difficult time passing the Senate. Even if it passed the Senate, the legislation isn’t expected to be taken up by the House.
The Renewable Fuels Association responded to the vote with this statement: “We are disappointed in the shortsightedness of this vote …. As the underlying bill to which this amendment is attached is unlikely to make it to the president’s desk, this vote was a freebie with no real consequences.”
Both Mississippi Republican senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker voted against the amendment. One day prior to the vote, Cochran said, “This tax issue should have first been considered by the committees of jurisdiction.” He had not offered further comment at press time.
Ethanol is a renewable, liquid fuel additive that comes mainly from corn in the United States.
Critics say ethanol subsidies are no longer needed for an industry that is already supported by a mandate from Congress that requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into auto fuel by 2022. They say it drives up corn prices, mainly for animal feed.
Supporters argue it is a leading source of alternative fuel that helps reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.