Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rural Democrats want EPA stand on 'indirect land use' reversed before they will support climate bill

The Waxman-Markey bill, which would caps on carbon emissions and a system for trading them, is being threatened by rural Democrats who say they won’t vote in favor of it unless proposed federal policy is made more favorable to ethanol made from corn.

Lisa Lerer reports for Politico that the debate intensified when the Enivronmental Protection Agency said “indirect land use” issues should be considered when calculating the carbon footprint of ethanol over its life cycle. Critics argue that the global effects of indirect land use of biofuels hold farmers responsible for economic factors far beyond their control. “Assume that those soybeans grown in Brazil are processed into animal feed and used to produce pork that ends up on someone’s dinner plate in China,” Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, told the House Agriculture Committee last week.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and 26 other Democrats have introduced a bill that would exclude indirect land use from the life-cycle definition and would have the evaluations done by the departments of Energy and Agriculture, not EPA. Peterson said, “There’s just enough concerns that the committee members have pretty much decided to stick together — that unless we get a resolution here that we think we can live with, we don’t see how we can support this.”

Mark Gaede, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wheat Growers, told Dan Looker of Agriculture Online that the climate-change bill could be more attractive to farmers if it included agricultural offsets and they could be traded. However, Gaede told Looker he was frustrated with some groups that have opposed the bill too early before any changes have been made. "Agriculture can never make its case for this unless we're united,” he said.

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