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Safeguards in Biofuels Policy Endangered by Climate Bill Hostage Situtation

Posted May. 22, 2009 / Posted by: KMcmahon

The last week’s deliberations on climate legislation in the House Energy and Commerce Committee did not leave environmental safeguards from biofuels unscathed. 

First, the manager’s amendment introduced by Representative Waxman contained severely compromised language on forest protections for the Renewable Fuels Standard’s biofuels mandate.  Now, materials for biofuel and biomass energy standards can be sourced from federal forest land, essentially allowing our federal forests to be desecrated in order to drive our cars and turn on our televisions. 

While several amendments to further weaken forest protections were introduced, they fortunately failed to get enough votes in committee voting.  However, when the bill reaches the House floor, there could be further problems.  Continued weakening of the forest safeguards undermines the integrity of the bill as a whole: already, deforestation contributes 20 percent of global warming pollution around the world.  Not to mention, it cannot be more contradictory to incentivize the destruction of forests in one part of the bill, yet have incentives to prevent deforestation in another part of the bill.

The biggest looming threat, however, is increasingly noisy calls to hold the climate bill hostage if the global warming protections in the Renewable Fuels Standard are not significantly weakened.  Many agriculture state representatives are advocating for the removal of “indirect land-use change” in the life-cycle accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels.  

This is a critical climate provision on biofuels policy, approved by the House and Senate two years ago in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.  Since then, the science has become more and more clear showing that agriculturally produced biofuels can cause a significant amount of global warming pollution, in many causes much more so than the global warming pollution from gasoline.  The reason for this recent uprising against the inclusion of this pollution is because of EPA’s recently released draft rules on the Renewable Fuels Standard, which shows the immense size of these emissions.

Democratic champions in the Energy and Commerce Committee stood strong and voted against an amendment introduced by republican representative Lee Terry of Nebraska, which would have striped the inclusion of indirect land-use change from the biofuels greenhouse gas accounting (see our press release on this here). 

However, democratic representative Colin Peterson, chair of the powerful Agricultural Committee, is working to stop the climate bill on the house floor if these climate protections in biofuels policy are not weakened (see our press release on this here).  Over the next several weeks, Peterson will continue to galvanize support from his agricultural committee allies in order to hold the climate bill hostage if he doesn’t get his way.  Friends of the Earth is working to stop Peterson and his cohort from undermining climate safeguards in biofuels policy through the climate bill.

Letter on ILUC to House E&C Committee 

Letter against Terry ILUC Amendment  | Letter against Ross Biomass Amendment

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