Ag Policy Blog

Protecting RFS is One Way to Battle Climate Change

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Agricultural groups are writing Democratic members of Congress telling them they want to be part of any possible solution regarding how the federal government attacks climate change.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Rep. Henry Waxman of California have put together their own task force on climate change. Such a task force in Congress is actually incapable of doing anything, but it allows people to submit ideas that have otherwise been shut out.

A task force also allows groups to find new friends. Such is the case with agricultural and renewable-energy groups trying to protect the biofuels industry, which has seen eroded support in recent years on Capitol Hill. Ag groups did an incredibly effective job undercutting their own support for biofuels in 2009 and 2010 by arguing that the country doesn't need to worry about reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Now, at least some of those farm groups are coalescing under the Fuels America campaign to reach out to Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Waxman.

Eighteen organizations sent the task force a letter on Wednesday citing, "Our nation's continued reliance on oil ensures not only that the U.S. transportation sector will remain greenhouse gas intensive, but also that American families and our economy will continue to be burdened by the high and volatile prices of the global oil market in addition to the national security challenges that come with oil dependence."

The groups later added, "We simply cannot address climate change if we do not reduce our consumption of oil regardless of whether that oil comes from inside our nation's borders."

With that, the 18 farm and biofuels groups cite that the Renewable Fuel Standard is working and lowering the need for imported oil, having already replaced petroleum in 10% of the nation's gasoline. In 2012, biofuels "slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 33.4 million metric tons. That's equivalent to removing 5.2 million cars and picks from the road in one year."

The biofuels and commodity groups added that "The single most important thing Congress can do to reduce our nation's dependence on oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions is to leave the RFS in place, as is."

Companies and groups signing the letter include Abengoa, Advanced Ethanol Council, American Coalition for Ethanol, American Council for Renewable Energy, American Security Project, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, DuPont, Growth Energy, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, NextSteppe, Novozymes, POET, Renewable Fuels Association and 25X25.

The National Farmers Union also sent its own letter in to the Whitehouse-Waxman task force, citing the volatile weather that the U.S. has seen and the effects that weather can have on farmers' ability to produce food, feed and fiber.

"While it is unlikely that every storm that we experience can be related to climate change, the science is clear that if we do not act now to mitigate and adapt, our agricultural system and the country at large will be at risk," said Roger Johnson, president of NFU.

In his comments, Johnson argued that a cap and trade system would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that farmers and ranchers can make significant contributions to address climate change.

“Given the right incentives, agriculture can play a significant role in such a system though carbon sequestration projects on agricultural lands as well as capturing emissions from stored manure livestock facilities,” Johnson said. “Any climate change legislation should be crafted using the expertise of the agriculture sector and should financially reward producers for sequestering carbon in order to offset higher energy costs.”

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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Bonnie Dukowitz
2/24/2013 | 1:10 PM CST
There are too many people oblivious and in denial of their own direct and indirect contribution, for that to work, Jay.
Jay Mcginnis
2/24/2013 | 11:02 AM CST
A carbon tax would cut waste Bonnie,,, glad you see that!
Bonnie Dukowitz
2/22/2013 | 9:32 AM CST
Kind of a catch 22 Curt, but that is what is needed. Those riding in a majic carpet, abusing the earth, extracting rare earths to implement the concept. Driving 100 miles or more in the guzzeler to shop for what they could wait for or do without, while pointing their finger at the others. Flying to another country for a weekend off. The government should consider taxing waste. How about $1.00 tax on plastic bags, water bottles and cardboard boxes? But I am sure groups with kissing beaks would would flock to D.C. looking for exemptions at the feeder and chirping to have a voice in the defining of the term, "waste". Thanks for picking up on the concept.
Curt Zingula
2/22/2013 | 7:10 AM CST
Bonnie, your solution involves nearly everyone - that's why it will never work. Much easier to point fingers at someone else and say, "you suffer so I don't have to".
Bonnie Dukowitz
2/22/2013 | 6:14 AM CST
How about this, Dan. If the 65% overweight would eat less and exercise more to lose weight. America would reduce health ins. cost, reduce the wasted energy to produce food, reduce the wasted energy by walking instead of riding, drive slower when one does drive for better mileage, therefore solve much of the alledged global carbon issue. We would all live happily ever-after.
2/21/2013 | 7:30 PM CST
Do you people who comment ever get tired of saying the same old thing?
stan s
2/21/2013 | 12:44 PM CST
Here is a good site not supported by oil or ethanol money, on the facts and fiction of ethanol. by Dr. Thomas E. Elam. We don't need to, and with the drought and population growth we shouldn't use farm land to grow fuel. There are better options, for energy like,Safe, new, nuclear-, that Bill Gates promotes, and could be tied with and also produce carbon free energy for electric cars. Also, / that makes the sucrose instead of extracting it, lowering the cost of sugar for the economical and scalable production of biofuels. We really should support and fast track these options for a cleaner, healthier planet, and for the best future for America and the world. But the RFS mandates takes away resources(money, research) and stifles better options by forcing us to use billions of gallons, of corn ethanol and other land source energy. I know the National corn growers association will not let the corn ethanol mandate end with out a fight.But we need to make the best and wisest choices. The highly respected OECD said. "The rush to energy crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage to biodiversity with limited benefits â?¦ Government policies supporting and protecting domestic production of biofuels are inefficient [and] not cost effective â?¦ The current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits â?¦ Governments should cease creating new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out." - Richard Doornbosch and Ronald Steenblik, "Biofuels: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?" in Round Table on Sustainable Development (OECD, Sep 11-12, 2007).
2/21/2013 | 10:42 AM CST
The Chinese are worried aabout climate change, give me a break. They are going to have a carbon tax, Oboma must green with envy. Maybe Oboma can team up with them they seem to have lot in common. The only are concerned about one thing, keeping 1.4 billion citizens employed and peacefully quiet revolution sucks.
Lon Truly
2/21/2013 | 9:31 AM CST
Check this out -
2/21/2013 | 9:23 AM CST
The one thing that would help the world-wide pollution problem is if the US required everything imported into the US to be raised or manufactured adhering to US air and water quality laws.
Jay Mcginnis
2/21/2013 | 8:44 AM CST
China just announced it will implement a carbon tax to fight climate change! Great the NFU has taken the stand they have. Let the necons scream and cry, its time to get off the dwindling fossil fuel supply!
Lon Truly
2/21/2013 | 6:32 AM CST
See Corn Ethanol: Bad For Farmers, Consumers And The Environment BY-LINE: SCOTT FABER, VICE PRESIDENT OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2013 By driving up the price of food and gas and causing costly engine damage, corn ethanol has been bad news for consumers. And by driving up the price of food, corn ethanol is also costing all of us money � by increasing the cost of federal programs like food stamps and school lunches. But corn ethanol has not just been a disaster for consumers, most farmers, and taxpayers; it�s also been a disaster for the environment � worse, in fact, than Canadian tar sands. That�s according to the Swiss Federal Laboratories, which concluded that biofuels �often shift environmental burdens toward land-use related impacts.� By dramatically raising the price of corn, the federal corn ethanol mandate has, in just the last four years, contributed to the conversion of 23 million acres from wetland and grassland � an area the size of Indiana � to cropland. In fact, thanks to the corn ethanol mandate, we have lost more than wetlands and grasslands in the last four years than in the previous 40. By encouraging farmers to plow up wetlands and grasslands, the mandate is causing more carbon to be released into the atmosphere, consuming more water to irrigate crops, causing more fertilizer to wash off farm fields and destroying more habitat that supports wildlife � and millions of jobs. What�s more, burning corn ethanol in gasoline releases more benzene, a known carcinogen, and other toxic air pollutants that have been linked to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. Thanks to new fuel efficiency standards, the rationale for the corn ethanol mandate created in 2005, and expanded in 2007, has evaporated. So why is Congress continuing to force consumers to use a fuel that increases food and gas prices and is bad for the environment and public health? Now is the time to reduce the use of corn ethanol in our gasoline.