By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On April 4, 2017, the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) announced that the Iowa Department of Revenue’s 2016 Retailers Fuel Gallons Annual Report demonstrated that more than half of Iowa’s fuel retailers carried biodiesel blends in 2016. In 2016, 344.8 million gallons of on-road biodiesel blends were sold, which accounts for 54.7 percent of total on-road diesel fuel sales. The report also showed that twice as many gallons of 11 - 20 percent biodiesel (B11-B20) were sold compared to lower blends. IBB credits the growth in the use of higher biodiesel blends to Iowa’s proactive state policies, which are working as intended to increase production and consumption. Due to the instability at the federal level, Grant Kimberley, the IBB executive director, stated that Iowa’s biofuel producers need state tax credits to stay in place now more than ever to remain competitive.
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.
The New York State Clean Heating Fuel Tax Credit has been extended through 2020. The personal income tax credit, which was initially authorized in 2006, is provided to eligible taxpayers for biodiesel purchases used for residential space and water heating. For each percent of biodiesel blended with conventional home heating oil, a tax credit of $0.01/gallon is available up to a maximum of $0.20/gallon. A partial credit will be calculated for buildings with a shared oil storage tank for residential and non-residential space that is based on the percentage of residential square footage. A refund will be provided to taxpayers whose allowable credit exceeds their liability for that year.
On October 18, 2016, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) sent a letter to Congressional Leadership, the Senate Finance Committee Chairs, and the House Ways and Means Committee Chairs calling for the extension of expiring renewable energy tax credits. The Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property are set to expire at the end of 2016, with BIO urging congress for multi-year extensions. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of the Industrial and Environmental section at BIO, stated “[a]dvanced biofuel tax credits drive innovation while leveling the playing field for U.S. companies in the international marketplace. These tax credits foster American-born technology innovations and help keep them here at home.” BIO continued to defend the biofuels incentives by outlining the $184.5 billion in economic output and 852,056 jobs that are created annually by the biofuels industry. A long term extension of biofuel tax credits will increase the ability to raise capital, allowing advanced biofuel production to continue expanding.
On September 12, 2016, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Incentive Extension Act of 2016
(H.R. 5994) was introduced to the House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill was introduced by Representative Diane Black (R-TN), and would extend the $1 per gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel blenders credit, originally set to expire December 31, 2016
, through December 31, 2018
. The blenders tax credit of $1 was created in 2005 for biodiesel or renewable diesel used in qualified mixtures. The Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) has spoken out in favor of extending the tax credit
, with ABFA President Michael McAdams stating, "it is clear that the best chance for our industry to continue to have tax credit support at the federal level is for all of us to unite behind the existing blenders credit. Given the shortness of the year and the importance of certainty for the overall biodiesel industry, we simply owe it to all our members to give them the best opportunity to continue to have a tax credit in 2017
On August 24, 2016, Brazil's government announced that it would not be extending a tax break on ethanol sales that is due to expire in December 2016. During the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, Brazil pledged to increase cane-based ethanol and biodiesel to nearly 18 percent of its total energy mix by 2030, requiring an increase in annual ethanol production from 30 billion liters in 2015/2016 to 50 billion liters in 2030. The loss of the ethanol tax break prevents biofuel from being cost competitive with gasoline, and will severely impede the ability of ethanol and biodiesel to make up a larger percentage of Brazil's energy mix. Elizabeth Farina, head of the cane industry association Unica, stated that this change will push cane mills to switch from biofuel to sugar production. Two days after the announcement that Brazil would not be renewing the ethanol tax break, Brokers INTL FCStone predicted that the top cane growing region of Brazil would produce 4.7 percent less ethanol in the 2016/2017 crop than it did in 2015/2016.
On July 6, 2016, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed SB 2652 Related to Taxation -- Locally Produced Renewable Energy. This bill establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit. The tax credit will take effect in 2017 and will provide 20 cents per gallon of ethanol (or 76,000 British thermal units (Btu) of renewable fuel) with a cap of $3 million. The tax credit is open to companies producing at least 15 billion Btu of fuel from renewable feedstocks per year. Acceptable fuels include, but are not limited to, ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel, biogas, renewable jet fuel, and other biofuels.
On June 15, 2016, H.R. 5489, Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2016, was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The bill would add additional biogas applications to the list of technologies that qualify for the federal Section 45 energy investment tax credit, increasing acceptable biogas technologies from only biogas-based electricity projects to "qualified biogas property" defined as:
property comprising a system which--
(i) uses anaerobic digesters, or other biological, chemical, thermal, or mechanical processes (alone or in combination), to convert biomass (as defined in section 45K(c)(3)) into a gas which consists of not less than 52 percent methane, and
(ii) captures such gas for use as a fuel.
Qualified biogas properties, as well as qualified manure resource recovery properties, will be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit under this bill. H.R. 5489 was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Ron Kind (D-WI), and signed by 12 other House members. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate,