Midwestern senators counter colleagues’ bid to kill expiring ethanol tax break

A bipartisan group of Corn Belt senators — led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — are calling on Senate leaders to extend federal ethanol support that’s slated to expire at year’s end.

“We are writing to ask that you make an extension of renewable fuel tax and tariff provisions a high priority on the Senate’s legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. Allowing the provisions to expire or remain expired would threaten jobs, harm the environment, weaken our renewable fuel industries, and increase our dependence on foreign oil,” states a Nov. 30 letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Thirteen other senators signed the letter, including Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

The group has launched what amounts to a political counterstrike against a separate bipartisan coalition that wants the tax credits and import tariffs to lapse.

Here’s the entire pro-ethanol letter:

November 30, 2010
 
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221 United States Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
S-230 United States Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
 
We are writing to ask that you make an extension of renewable fuel tax and tariff provisions a high priority on the Senate’s legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. Allowing the provisions to expire or remain expired would threaten jobs, harm the environment, weaken our renewable fuel industries, and increase our dependence on foreign oil.
 
Our country is spending over $730 million a day on imported petroleum this year, money that often ended up in the hands of unstable or unfriendly governments. The price tag for our dependence on foreign oil is likely to rise even higher as the economy recovers. This is not the time to reduce the supply of a domestic source of fuel and place at greater risk the thousands of well-paying jobs that the renewable fuels industry has created. Congress should demonstrate that it continues to recognize the need to develop domestic, renewable sources of fuel.
 
Next year the Senate will be in a position to debate alternative legislative proposals for developing renewable fuels, including proposals to invest in biofuel infrastructure. In advance of this debate, we believe that, in an effort to provide stability and certainty for producers and consumers of renewable fuels, Congress must act to extend biofuels tax and tariff policies for the longest term possible. We ask that you place such an extension high on the Senate’s upcoming agenda.
 
Sincerely,
 
Kent Conrad
Chuck Grassley
Kit Bond
Tom Harkin
Amy Klobuchar
Ben Nelson
Sam Brownback
John Thune
Tim Johnson
Byron Dorgan
Mike Johanns
Al Franken
Debbie Stabenow
Mark Kirk
Claire McCaskill