Department Of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:  Chuck Grassley
Date: Dec. 17, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I rise on the issue of jobs and 10 percent unemployment and to tell my fellow Senators what we can do to preserve maybe 25,000 jobs in an industry that, by the end of the month, will be otherwise shut down because Congress is not taking action. The main point of my remarks is, if we don't extend the biodiesel tax credit by the end of the month, these jobs will be lost.

My point is 23,000 jobs will be lost. In fact, right now, on December 17, companies are making plans to shut down these operations by the end of the year.

Everybody knows our unemployment rate is 10 percent. Everybody knows the President has spent a great deal of time, over the last 2 or 3 weeks, talking about creating jobs and getting us out of the recession. But we have to remember that for those without work, this is not just a recession, it is a depression.

We all agree we should take whatever action is necessary to jump-start our economy and get people back to work. President Obama and Vice President Biden have been talking for months about the need to create green jobs. Well, green jobs, purple jobs, whatever kind of jobs, jobs are jobs. I don't object to the creation of green jobs. In fact, what I am talking about is some of these green jobs.

President Obama has held three public events in recent days to highlight his concern about the economy and the need to create jobs. Yesterday, the administration apparently announced billions more in tax credits for renewable energy and energy conservation efforts. I will bet when I look at that list I am going to support most of those because I believe a national energy policy involves capturing whatever we can of petroleum and fossil fuels we have available for a short period of time because we are never going to get rid of them in the short term. We need conservation, and we need renewable and alternative energy. Those three things make a comprehensive energy program. Obviously, if I am for that comprehensive energy program, I am for renewable energy and alternative energy.

It seems as if nearly everyone, in fact, in the administration is touting the benefits of green jobs and a clean energy economy and I am doing that right now myself. It is astonishing, though, with all this talk about green jobs and clean energy that this Congress right now seems to be heading for the holidays while thousands of green energy workers will receive pink slips and furloughs.

On December 31 of this year, the current biodiesel tax credit will expire. The biodiesel tax credit provides a $1-per-gallon credit for biodiesel made from soybean oil and yellow grease and animal fats. The tax credit is essential in maintaining the competitiveness of this clean-burning, domestically produced green fuel and the jobs that are connected with it.

The tax credit exists for a commonsense reason and something we have been using for a long period of time: to offset the higher cost of producing biodiesel--or I could just as well insert the word ``ethanol''--compared to petroleum diesel. Without the tax credit, petroleum marketers will be unwilling to purchase the more expensive biodiesel and demand will vanish. From this standpoint of the tax credit, I hope everybody remembers that whether it is wind, ethanol, solar, biodiesel, biomass, or geothermal, it takes tax credits to get these programs off the ground. Right now, wind energy is a big industry in my State, not only from the production standpoint but from the standpoint of manufacturing of components because, in 1992, I got a wind energy tax credit passed; otherwise, we would not have wind energy and everybody touts wind energy today. It is a little bit like the very infant biodiesel industry we have. One might not think biofuels are an infant industry because ethanol has been around for 30 years, but biodiesel is about where ethanol was 30 years ago. So we want to help move this industry along so eventually it can stand on its own legs. That is the motive behind all these tax credits, to get an infant industry started and then they stand on their own.

In 2008, getting back to the jobs in this industry, biodiesel supported 51,000 green jobs. Because of the downturn in the economy and the credit crisis, the biodiesel industry has already shed 29,000 green jobs. So now what about the rest of those jobs? That is what my remarks are all about, and that is what getting the tax credit renewed before the end of the year is all about. Because the industry is currently operating at just around 15 percent of capacity. Without an extension of the tax credit, all U.S. biodiesel production will grind to a halt. Plants will be shuttered and workers will be let go.

No one should be surprised by the upcoming expiration of this tax credit. It was extended most recently in October 2008. So we have known for 14 months; hence, nobody should be surprised that it would need to be extended by the end of this year.

The Senate has been in session nearly continuously for months. Earlier this year, Senator Cantwell and I introduced a bill to extend the tax credit for 5 years and change it to a production tax credit. There is no excuse for inaction on this credit. The Democratic leadership is content to leave without doing the necessary work on extenders, believing they can extend the tax provisions retroactively sometime early next year. Retroactivity does work a lot of times on tax extenders that are not extended at the end of the year and extended to be made retroactive. But retroactivity in the case of the biodiesel market doesn't help bring it from grinding to a halt on January 1, 2010, because without the incentive, the biodiesel will cost much more than petroleum diesel.

While the House and Senate dither, thousands will lose their jobs, but demand for dirty, imported petroleum diesel, however, will continue. Investments in the domestic renewable fuels industry will lose value and possibly disappear--quite to the contrary of what I said in my remarks of yesterday, the President announcing various tax credits. So this one has been on the books. All it has to be is reauthorized.

It is too bad that among all the talk of green jobs and the clean energy economy, Congress is unable to pass a simple extension of an existing tax credit. Once again, the actions of the majority do not match their words. For all the talk, they will have failed all those in the biodiesel industry working today to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil if we leave without extending this critical tax credit before the end of the year.

I yield the floor.

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