House Unanimously Passes Bold Biofuels Bill
Legislation introduces first-in-the-nation gas tax exemption for cellulosic biofuel, calls for biodiesel blending of home heating oil sold in Massachusetts
BOSTON— Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford), Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. (D-Medford) and Sean Garballey (D- Arlington, West Medford) and their colleagues in the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to encourage the development of advanced biofuels in the Commonwealth. The legislation, unveiled by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray last November, aims to promote the use of advanced biofuels through a first-in-the-nation state gas tax exemption on cellulosic biofuel, based on the percentage of renewable fuel used, and mandated blending of advanced biofuels with traditional diesel and heating fuel.
“The evidence is clear that the burning of fossil fuels continues to take a dramatic toll on our environment, and pain at the pump will only worsen as the price of gasoline exceeds fours dollars a gallon. These environmental and consumer costs demand solutions and the House voted to make Massachusetts a part of the clean energy solution,” said Representative Donato.
“We need to be exploring every way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and provide relief to working families,” said Representative Sciortino. “This legislation works to accomplish both of those goals.”
“We sincerely hope that this bill will help consumers, help the environment and help stimulate interest in the development and use of alternative forms of energy,” said Representative Garballey.
“As the price of crude oil approaches $200 dollars a barrel and the environment continues to be a casualty of our fossil fuel consumption, it is imperative that we change the way we produce, consume, and deliver energy in the Commonwealth. Today the House has taken another meaningful step toward comprehensive energy reform that will preserve our environment, ultimately drive down consumer energy costs and bolster Massachusetts growing clean energy sector,” said Speaker DiMasi (D-Boston).
“It addresses climate change by encouraging the use of less carbon intensive fuels as substitutes for gasoline, home heating oil and diesel fuel. Emissions from the transportation sector make up more than 30 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, so this is an important step,” said Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline), House Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and member of the Advanced Biofuels Task Force.
“This bill will allow for the Commonwealth to develop the framework to advance the biofuels sector while seizing the economic, energy and environmental benefits of this emerging technology,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), House Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Biofuels will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while offering significant opportunities for economic development and job creation.”
“Oil dependence exacts a huge toll on the Massachusetts economy. Consumers spend more on petroleum every year than natural gas and electricity combined, and 80 cents of every dollar spent on gasoline exits the local economy,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the New Fuels Alliance. “This bill puts Massachusetts on the map as a national leader in the effort to commercialize advanced biofuels, and is good news for those interested in seeing something other than oil at the pump.”
The bill calls for a reduction in the state’s gasoline sales tax, currently 21 cents per gallon, in proportion to the amount of biofuel in each gallon of gasoline. According to the Advanced Biofuels Task Force Report, issued in April, this incentive will encourage fuel purchasers to buy advanced biofuels once they are on the market and reduce the risk associated with investing in biofuels production.
In addition to the tax incentive, the bill sets a mandate, which escalates by a full percentage point every year, on the amount of biofuel content that must be present in all home heating oil and diesel used in Massachusetts – achieving 5 percent utilization by 2013. Advocates of advanced biofuels say that this type of mandate will help to develop the infrastructure needed to break the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and encourage the development of a biofuels industry.
Under the legislation, all qualifying fuels must achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.
The environment and economy will benefit from this legislation, advocates said. According to the Advanced Biofuels Task Force Report, Massachusetts could stand to gain 1,000 to 4,000 permanent “green collar” jobs by encouraging the development of a biofuels industry in Massachusetts. In addition, the industry could contribute up to $1 billion in revenue to the state’s economy.
Provided by Representative Paul J. Donato’s Office
Update: Governor Patrick will sign the the biofuels bill today, Monday, July 28 at 12:30.