Monday, April 23, 2012

Biomass Energy In or Out? 2013 Farm Bill Under Consideration

Biomass energy is getting attention in forestry circles. The Senate farm bill could defund a successful assistance program that encourages biomass production and creates jobs.

Debris from timber harvests and even fuel-specific crops are a source of revenue for forest landowners, and of carbon-free energy for the Pacific Northwest. That's thanks in part to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). 

One example: A REAP loan guarantee helped start up a cellulosic ethanol plant in Boardman, Oregon. A BCAP project helped get 7,000 acres of poplar planted to feed the new facility.

The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry released their first proposal for a 2013-2017 Farm Bill on April 20, 2012. The Committee will begin Farm Bill discussions on the proposal April 25.

The good news is that the bill includes clean energy programs including REAP and BCAP. The bad news is that funding levels are low and there is no mandatory funding -- that means Congress would have to pass an appropriation for the energy programs each year.

We are seeing the growing impact of these programs across our region. REAP has excellent job creation ability because it leverages private capital. REAP’s maximum grant amount is 25 percent of the project’s total capital cost. In 2011, REAP awarded $57 million in grants and $34 million in loans. This public investment leveraged an additional $374 million in private capital with a total of $465 million of investments stemming from REAP. That’s a 4 to 1 ratio of total investment per federal dollar spent. Those investments translate into jobs. According to USDA, REAP created nearly 15,000 badly needed jobs during the past three years.

Contact your Senator to voice your support for funding.

Thanks to Harvesting Clean Energy for the information in this post.

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