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.”
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