Senate asked to block land-use change rule

Sep 25, 2009
by WLJ
Senate asked to block land-use change rule

Key agricultural groups quickly rallied last Tuesday to urge the entire U.S. Senate to support an amendment sponsored by Sen.

Tom Harkin, D-IA, to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using international indirect land use change analysis in determining whether U.S. biofuels meet standards for improving the environment under the Renewable Fuels Standard(RFS).

The National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, and Growth Energy were joined in signing a letter to the Senate by the American Coalition for Ethanol, the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Sorghum Producers.

On Tuesday, Harkin, introduced an amendment to the Interior-Environment appropriations bill that would stop EPA from using any of its money during fiscal year 2010 to implement the indirect land-use change (ILUC) analysis. The bill is already on the Senate floor, but a Harkin spokesman said it is unclear when the amendment will be debated and voted on. The amendment was co-sponsored by fellow Iowa Sen.

Chuck Grassley, a Republican, and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-NE.

“We strongly endorse Sen. Harkin’s effort to call a time out in the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency’s plans to impose onerous regulations on the U.S. biofuels industry and the American farmers who grow the feedstocks used to produce the fuel,” the letter stated.

“The inclusion of international ILUC would undermine Congress’ intention in expanding the RFS [in the Energy and Independence Act of 2007. The tremendous uncertainty and inherent lack of transparency associated with the analysis of international ILUC makes it extremely difficult for regulators to legitimately use these results to assign penalties for international indirect effects to the carbon score of various biofuels. Moreover, ILUC sets a dangerous precedent within our overall domestic economic policy. What is to prevent ILUC from applying to shopping malls, roads, residential homes, schools and hospitals if it is arbitrarily allowed here?” The groups noted that the ILUC provision was not debated before it was included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“A one-year delay would give Congress and the administration the more time to thoroughly evaluate the theory of ILUC,” the groups’ letter stated. “It is not a good idea for EPA to regulate an industry before they have all of the necessary data. The House has already included a provision in the American Clean Energy and Security

Act of 2009, H.R. 2454, that prevents the EPA from implementing this ILUC rule for six years until the National Academy of Sciences studies more thoroughly whether the theory of ILUC is corroborated by the actual on–the-ground evidence and should be applied in a policy context.”

The groups wrote that EPA’s proposed ILUC rule “would penalize domestic production of ethanol and biodiesel. ILUC incorrectly assumes that increased production of U.S. biofuels will cause deforestation in Brazil and other foreign countries.

“The facts contradict this bizarre theory. Deforestation in Brazil during the past four years has been reduced by 50 percent, while during those same four years, the production of U.S. biofuels has nearly tripled.

“The international ILUC theory is not only flawed and premature, it is also not equitably imposed on all energy producers. The EPA’s proposed rule on the RFS in no way accounts for the international or domestic indirect impacts of other transportation fuels, including Middle East oil, Canadian tar sands oil, or the coal-fired electricity needed to power plug-in hybrid vehicles. If the indirect impact of one type of transportation fuel should be regulated, then it only makes sense that all transportation fuels should face the same level of scrutiny.” — DTN