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Inside the Beltway: "EPA Hears from American Agriculture"
by Eric Washburn

Thank goodness for Congressman Collin Peterson.

Collin Peterson is the smart, opinionated, and sometimes cranky chairman of the House Agriculture Committee who hails from northwestern Minnesota. In early May, he held a hearing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rulemaking for the 36 billion gallon Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which holds the American biofuels industry responsible for greenhouse gas emissions associated with land clearing in the tropics. EPA is using computer models to estimate the effects of biofuels use in the U.S. on land clearing in the tropics, despite the fact that there is no on-the-ground evidence that biofuels use is causing any impact.

At that hearing, Peterson said in a plain-spoken way what many of us have been thinking for a long time. Referring to the climate change legislation that the House of Representatives is considering, and which would give the EPA vast new authority over climate-related programs affecting agricultural carbon credits, he said “I am off the train. I will not support any kind of climate bill – even if you fix this – because I just don’t trust anybody anymore.”

Those words were directed at EPA for its recent RFS proposal. He went on to say that “I don’t have any confidence. The only way I would consider supporting any climate change legislation would be if it was ironclad that these agencies [read EPA] had no ability to do any rulemaking of any kind whatsoever…. that we could be absolutely guaranteed that these folks would not get involved.”

I think a climate change bill on balance can be very good for U.S. agriculture because it will create new multibillion-dollar markets for carbon credits. However, Peterson makes an important point. There has always been a belief in agricultural circles that the U.S. EPA, along with urban media, actively seeks ways to undermine America farmers and ranchers. At stake in the climate change debate is whether the rules for that program will be written in such a way as to allow farmers and ranchers to generate carbon credits through practices like no-till farming or installing methane digesters and so earn additional income.

Many believe that with EPA in charge, American agriculture will not get a fair shake. The new RFS proposal by EPA, which heaps on the back of ethanol tons of greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be justified by any real-life measurements of actual land clearing in the tropics, adds fuel to that fire.

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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