Temporary budget doesn't include amendments on E15, blender pumps

By Holly Jessen | March 03, 2011

The U.S. EPA hasn't been stripped of the ability to implement its E15 waiver decision—at least not by the short-term budget bill passed March 3. 

President Barack Obama signed the temporary measure to keep the government running another two weeks as the deadline for a government shutdown on March 4 loomed. The U.S. Congress now has through March 18 to come up with a budget that all three branches of government can agree on.

In signing the temporary bill Obama urged Democrats and Republicans to find common ground with a long-term budget that cuts spending without damaging economic growth or cutting investments in programs that create jobs. “I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together and passed a plan that will cut spending and keep the government running for the next two weeks,” he said. “But we cannot keep doing business this way. Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy.”

The Continuing Resolution cuts just $4 million, far short of the billions cut in the first bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in mid-February. That bill contained amendments to block the EPA from implementing E15 and hamper funding for blender pumps.

Whether those amendments will make it into the final budget bill remains to be seen. So far, the Senate has only approved one budget bill, the short term-budget that extends government operations two weeks, and has rejected the cuts suggested by House Republicans. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is one example of a firm supporter of ethanol, calling the ethanol tax credit a no brainer. “With the expense of gasoline increasing rapidly, we need to find alternative fuels,” he said.

In contrast to deep cuts made in the House, legislation to recover up to $53 billion from oil companies was voted down. The House amendment would have stopped oil companies from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico unless royalties were paid. “Republicans once again sided with BP, Exxon and the oil companies, not with the American taxpayer and the poorest Americans most in need of help,” said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., urged U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to do more to reduce America's dangerous dependence on foreign oil during a March 2 hearing on the Energy Department’s budget for 2012. Conrad listed priorities for the next energy bill:

* Developing advanced vehicles and promoting alternative fuels,

* Increasing domestic oil and gas production,

* Investing in cleaner sources of electricity, and

* Boosting energy efficiency in homes and buildings.

"As we look to cut spending to bring down the deficit, we need to ensure that energy remains a priority," Conrad said. "We need to focus resources on programs that promote domestic production and energy efficiency, and that encourage private-sector innovation and the adoption of new technologies. And we need to ensure that every dollar we spend on energy is spent wisely."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., disagreed, saying spending doesn’t necessarily equal investment. “The president’s plan worsens a desperate fiscal circumstance and fails to invest—by any honest measure—in our nation’s energy future,” he said. “America has vast, proven energy reserves and yet the president continues to lock those away in the pursuit of a failed green jobs stimulus that has produced neither the promised energy nor the promised jobs.” He called for the Interior Secretary to issue more deepwater oil permits for domestic oil drilling.