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Always a good thing when Senators Al Franken (D. MN) and Tom Harkin (D. IA) team up:

Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the energy legislation to be included in the 2013 Farm Bill, which includes several provisions expected to create jobs throughout Minnesota and the country.

Sens. Franken and Harkin’s Rural Energy Investment Act will help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities by encouraging the growth of agricultural energy technologies, including advanced biofuels, biogas, biomass, and renewable energies.

The Rural Energy Investment Act also contains several programs that will specifically help Minnesota, including:

· The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which Sen. Franken included in the 2012 Farm Bill that passed the Senate. The program helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects so they can cut energy bills and earn additional income by selling the energy they produce.

· The Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), which assists in the development of new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels through support for the construction and retrofitting of biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels.

· The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which provides financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstock to energy producers.

· The Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which provides competitive funding in the form of grants, contracts, and financial assistance for research, development, and demonstration of technologies and processes leading to significant commercial production of biofuels, biobased energy, feedstocks, and products—including the development of cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol. - Echo Press, 5/7/13

Here's what Franken and Harkin have to say about the bill:

“The 2002 farm bill included an energy title for the first time to send a message that our farms, ranches, and rural communities are on the front lines of producing new energy sources such as bioenergy and windpower,” said Sen. Harkin. “These energy programs are essential for expanding clean energy supplies, which also spur rural economic development and job creation. The tradition of providing strong support for an energy title in a farm bill must continue today, so for that reason I am hopeful that this measure will serve as a marker as the 2013 bill moves through the U.S. Senate.”
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., questions Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during her testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday July 15, 2009, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Advancing our agricultural energy technologies is good for our farmers and economy, and it improves our overall energy independence and security,” said Sen. Franken. “This legislation will create jobs and play a critical role in cutting costs for our farmers and producers  and will help them with  the adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. I look forward to incorporating it into this year’s Farm Bill.”

You can read the bill here:

The Rural Energy Investment Act has been endorsed by a coalition of over 100 agriculture and energy organizations:

Here's what the Agriculture Energy Coalition has to say about Franken and Harkin's bill:

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the Coalition, said, “We agree with Sen. Franken and other co-sponsors of this legislation that investments in energy efficiency projects and renewable energy systems in rural areas of the United States provide very significant energy security, economic, and environmental benefits to the entire United States, including stable, well-paying employment opportunities. The U.S. agricultural and forestry sectors offer significant potential for production of renewable energy and its economic and environmental benefits.”

The AgEC is a broad membership-based consortium of organizations and companies representing a broad spectrum of clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and bioproducts stakeholders. It includes members focused on feedstock production and conversion technologies, rural economic development and diversification, biofuels, products and power, and renewable electricity production, environmental quality, and others. Coalition members are committed to seeing a strong bi-partisan energy title in the 2012 farm bill that builds on the tremendous clean energy accomplishments USDA has already realized and provides resources to USDA at a level that enables them to continue and expand this important mission. - Enhanced Online News, 5/7/13

Senators Sherrod Brown (D. OH), Dick Durbin (D. IL), Maria Cantwell (D. WA), Tim Johnson (D. SD), Sen. William “Mo” Cowan (D. MA), Mazie Hirono (D, HI), Tammy Baldwin (D. WI), and Brian Schatz (D. HI).

In other Franken-related news, the Senator from Minnesota has also been looking out for children's health:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and 13 other senators May 6 sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to do everything in its power to end a severe shortage of drugs used to treat critically ill infants.

Hospitals throughout the country have reported that the shortage is disrupting infant care, and several institutions have said they are within one to two weeks of running out of these essential products, the senators said in a statement. Several hospitals have been forced to reduce or ration these products.

Products in short supply include sodium phosphate, potassium phosphate, calcium gluconate, calcium chloride, zinc, trace elements, and several others, according to the letter.

“Drug shortages are unacceptable in any circumstances--but even more so when they pose a threat to vulnerable infants,” Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said. “The FDA must do all it can to end these life-threatening drug shortages and give parents, children, and medical professionals the peace of mind they deserve.”

In the letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, the senators said they “understand that at least one manufacturer of these products is currently offline and is working with you to get back on the market.”

“We ask that you do everything in your power to get these products back on the market quickly and safely,” the letter said.

In addition to Harkin, the letter was signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Johanns (R-Neb.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.). - Bloomberg BNA, 5/8/13

Franken's also been building support for immigration reform to his constituents:

U.S. Sen. Al Franken was back in Minnesota last week talking to a coalition of faith, labor and business leaders about immigration reform.

Franken is pushing several measures, including easier access to databases for small businesses to confirm the immigration status of their employees. He also supports provisions that would make it easier for high-skilled workers to immigrate to places like Minnesota.

The Minnesota Business and Advocacy Immigration Coalition is a varied group that includes the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, the Islamic Center of Minnesota and Minnesota AFL-CIO. It supports reform that it says reflects a 21st-century reality of demographics: Immigrants are needed to improve the economy and build stronger communities.

“What we are seeing is a coalescing around the need to get together and develop a rational system to take advantage of the fact that we are a country of immigrants and to restore the fact that we are a country of laws,” Franken said afterward. “We’ve been hurt as a country because we haven’t been living both of those strengths.” - Star Tribune, 5/7/13

And he's also been looking for consumers, workers and small businesses:

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) today (Tuesday, May 7) reintroduced legislation that would restore consumers, workers, and small businesses’ right to seek justice through the courts.

The Arbitration Fairness Act would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, civil rights and antitrust cases, and would protect the right of consumers, workers, and small businesses to have their case heard in court.

“Mandatory arbitration can be a huge disadvantage to consumers, workers, and small businesses, often limiting their ability to have any meaningful legal recourse when they are wronged,” said Sen. Franken. “I’ve reintroduced the Arbitration Fairness Act to ensure that people and small businesses maintain their right to their day in court when they are cheated.”

What the Arbitration Fairness Act does:
• Restores the original intent of the FAA by clarifying the scope of its application.
• Amends the FAA by adding a new chapter invalidating agreements that require the arbitration of employment, consumer, civil rights, or antitrust disputes made before the dispute arises.
• Restores the rights of workers, consumers, and small businesses trying to compete  to seek justice in our courts.
• Ensures transparency in civil litigation.
• Protects the integrity of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others.

The Arbitration Fairness Act was cosponsored by  Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), Maize Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio),  Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). - Home Town Source, 5/7/13

If you'd like more information on any of the legislation Franken is pushing for, please contact his office for more details:

(202) 224-5641

And if you would like to donate to Al's 2014 re-election campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed May 08, 2013 at 03:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We can count this small victory (3+ / 0-)

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed May 08, 2013 at 03:44:50 PM PDT

  •  does it include renewable ammonia or CH4 (0+ / 0-)


    •  hah! (0+ / 0-)

      Not much chance of that.

      The BRDI, BCAP, etc. are long existing programs with a primary emphasis of bringing value to the farm. If there's a commercially promising way to use biomass for generation of either NH3 or CH4, then it may be doable.

      I can imagine solar NH3, but biomass?

      There are a few technical pathways to convert biomass to CH4 (most especially using digestion). However, the commercialization of large-scale fracking has seriously depressed the commodity prices for (so-called) natural gas, so I think it will be quite difficult to make a compelling case for investing in such biomass-to-methane technology.

      -5.38, -2.97
      The NRA doesn't represent the interests of gun owners. So why are you still a member?

      by ChuckInReno on Wed May 08, 2013 at 05:38:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary. We do need more diaries that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poopdogcomedy, Gordon20024

    highlight what Democrats are doing that is positive.

  •  Subsidization of solar and wind energy (0+ / 0-)

    sources is a good thing. Subsidization of biomass, not so much. We don't want people to grow corn so that the corn is used to create yet another carbon-based fuel. We want people to grow corn to feed people. Biofuels were not promoted by environmentalists, they were promoted by Big Ag who wanted another profitable way of selling crops.

  •  Corn ethanol is not biofuels (0+ / 0-)

    Biofuels was given a huge black eye by corn ethanol, a technology that makes no sense on the technological, thermodynamic, commercial, or economic scale.

    Biofuels has so much potential. Is it going to solve all of our problems? No, of course not. But there are today no other easy ways to make fuels with fuel density anywhere near that of petro-gasoline.

    Second generation biofuels, like biodiesel, look reasonably promising. But there will always be the temptation to use vegetable oils for fuel, which runs head-first into the food vs fuels debate. And the amount of vegetable oils we can produce by any means (except maybe algae in another 50 years or so) is way too small to have a significant impact.

    The big enchilada, the solution that needs technology development, is lignocellulosic (or just cellulosic) biofuels. Here, we start with biomass that cannot be eaten to fuels. Think of grass (switchgrass), reeds (arundo), or beetle-killed forests, or even cactus (we've got a group at my university developing biofuels from pricley pair!)

    In a really well done report, the US DOE suggested that the amount of biomass available each year sustainably is on the order of a billion tons, depending on costs. That's a lot of fuel!

    We've got plenty of technologies available today for that conversion, but none yet that are nearly cost effective. Technology develops at its own rate. Be patient!

    -5.38, -2.97
    The NRA doesn't represent the interests of gun owners. So why are you still a member?

    by ChuckInReno on Wed May 08, 2013 at 09:23:35 PM PDT

  •  Instead of directly allocating federal funds to (0+ / 0-)

    these types of projects, why not make any capital gains and dividends from investments in these areas tax free over the next ten years.  Let private investors take the risk and losses from bad projects that don't work out.  In this way he government benefit only goes to what is successful.

    The advantage of the tax holiday is that it only rewards projects that are financially sustainable in that they must be profitable to be funded and sustained.  The problem with federal funding in the selection and funding is that the government political process is asked to do something it does not do well.  Funding technology and projects based on who is best at politics is a terrible way to go both from the spending perpesctive and from the commercial development perspective.

    For work the is much more research, run it as a research and development project through a university or research institution.  Trying to commercialize something that is still at the research phase is just a path to massive losses.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Thu May 09, 2013 at 09:08:30 AM PDT

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