LANSING - The Michigan House Agriculture Committee unanimously reported out on Tuesday a package of bills aimed at boosting the use of alternative fuels, which would include ethanol-based fuel derived from agricultural products.
The package (HB 5751, HB 5752, HB 5753, HB 5754, HB 5755 and HB 5181) will provide renaissance zone tax credits for alternative energy facilities, grants for fueling stations to convert pumping stations to alternative fueling centers and a tax discount on E85 (85 percent ethanol-based fuel) and biodiesel.
Representatives involved in the bi-partisan package said the state would be a leader in pushing for the use of alternative fuels, which would also help the state's economy and rural communities involved in producing corn and soybeans.
"We really feel these bills are a long time coming," said Tonia Ritter, legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau.
Although many of the commerce, environmental and agriculture groups said in testimony that they support the concept of the package, some funding mechanisms for the program still have to be worked out, such as providing additional funding for the Department of Agriculture to implement standards and facilities for alternative fuels. A representative from the department estimated it would need $2.5 million in capital outlays and an ongoing $800,000 for lab costs and inspections.
A representative from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation also expressed concern for where dollars would come from to provide grants for the transformation of fueling stations.
There was also some concern from the Sierra Club that with the push for more alternative energy production centers, environmental standards be in place to protect communities from pollution.
John Griffin with the Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan said the organization supports the bills, adding that solving the state's energy needs should be met with a variety of solutions. However, he did say the legislation regarding tax credits on biodiesel and E85 should match federal law of a per-gallon credit.
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