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Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley Biofuels and the EPA

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Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley Biofuels and the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, October 29, 2009





Mr. President,


Last week, President Obama delivered a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the environment and clean energy. He made an appeal for Congressional support for biofuels, wind and solar energy, and clean coal technology.


I share President Obama’s support for homegrown renewable energy. When he was in the Senate, we worked together to promote the production and distribution of biodiesel and ethanol.


It’s because of our common interest and shared support that I make this appeal today to President Obama.


The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing a number of proposals that are incredibly important to our nation’s ability to reach its potential in terms of renewable fuel production.


On September 3rd, I was fortunate to host EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy and Margo Oge, Director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality on a family farm in Iowa. I was happy that they accepted my invitation, it was a good visit.


With the tremendous impact that EPA decisions have on the family farmer, it seemed worthwhile for Administrator McCarthy and Director Oge to see American agriculture directly through the eyes of a family farmer.


I also had an opportunity to share my concerns on many pending issues, and I believe the EPA officials were a welcome audience.


The first issue I’m speaking about relates to the EPA’s proposal to penalize biofuels for greenhouse gas emissions from supposed changes in international land use.


I know President Obama is aware of my concern because I relayed it to him personally over lunch at the White House on May 6, of this year.


The new renewable fuels standard, enacted in 2007, requires various biofuels to meet specified life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The law specified that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are to include direct emissions and significant indirect emissions from indirect land use changes.


However, the proposed rule relies on incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions to penalize U.S. biofuels for so-called indirect land use changes. Under the EPA’s analysis, ethanol produced from corn reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent compared to gasoline. However, if you remove the murky science of emissions from indirect land use changes, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 61 percent compared to gasoline.


The EPA’s models conclude that changes in international land use contribute more in greenhouse gas emissions than the entire direct emissions of ethanol production and use.


The fact is, measuring indirect emissions of greenhouse gases is far from a perfect science. There is a great deal of complexity and uncertainty surrounding this issue.


That’s why Senator Harkin and I, along with ten other Senators, asked EPA earlier this year not to include calculations of indirect land use changes. But the EPA has ignored that request.


In its proposed rule, the EPA grossly underestimates future crop yields that will help meet the demand without requiring new crop acres. In addition, the EPA fails to adequately measure the land use credits for the feed value of corn ethanol co-products.


Similar miscalculations exist for biodiesel. The EPA miscalculated the value of co-products associated with biodiesel production, and even included a nitrogen penalty.


Farmers know that growing soybeans does not require nitrogen use – soybeans capture nitrogen and return it to the soil.


During consideration of the Interior Appropriations bill last month, Senator Harkin filed an amendment to block EPA from including the international component of the land use change calculation.


In response, EPA Administrator Jackson sent a letter to Congress claiming that the amendment would prevent them from carrying out their statutory obligations.


There are two points that need to be made with regard to Administrator Jackson’s letter.


First, the statute does not require the inclusion of “international” land use changes. Nowhere does the word “international” appear in the statute.


Second, in measuring greenhouse gas emissions, the statute states clearly, “direct emissions and significant indirect emissions such as significant emissions from land use changes.”


If the EPA can’t determine the impact of land use changes with any degree of certainty, how can it be sure the impact is significant? Isn’t there the same probability that it’s entirely insignificant?


Importantly, the House of Representatives demonstrated its lack of confidence in the EPA’s handling of this issue during consideration of the climate bill in June. In that bill, Agriculture Chairman Peterson, Speaker Pelosi, and Energy and Commerce Chairman Waxman, agreed to an amendment that recognized that there is no scientific agreement or consensus that links U.S. biofuels production to international land use changes.


The amendment blocked EPA’s consideration of international land use changes for five years, until it can be measured using sound science. So, there is strong, bipartisan on-the-record opposition to the EPA’s findings in this area.


I hope EPA is getting the message.


The second issue pertains to the volume mandates required for biodiesel under the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard.


The RFS-2 requires the use of 500 million gallons of biodiesel in 2009, and 650 million gallons in 2010. However, EPA’s rulemaking to implement these volume requirements has not been finalized, and may not be until well into 2010.


The U.S. biodiesel producers are in a tough financial situation. They need this mandate, which Congress enacted, to ensure a domestic marketplace for their renewable fuel. While the EPA took action to increase the overall volume mandate to comply with the law, it has failed to implement the specific biodiesel mandate.


In early August, Senator Conrad and I were joined by 22 other Senators in writing President Obama to ask for his help.


The domestic biodiesel producers are in a precarious state, so we asked President Obama to take immediate action to implement the volume mandates for biodiesel. It’s in our nation’s economic and environmental interest to maintain a robust biodiesel industry.


Unfortunately, no action has been taken to immediately implement the volume mandates.


Finally, the EPA continues to delay in approving higher blends of ethanol in our transportation fuel. Earlier this year, a number of ethanol producers submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency to allow higher blends of ethanol.


Currently, ethanol blends are limited to 10 percent in non-flex fuel vehicles. The waiver request is simply requesting that EPA allow ethanol to be blended at levels up to 15 percent. While the waiver request was submitted back in March, the EPA has yet to make a decision on this matter.


The EPA’s delay in considering this request is having a negative impact on U.S. ethanol producers and is harming consumers who would otherwise benefit from lower prices at the pump. The delay is also putting off our efforts to use more homegrown renewable fuels in place of imported fossil fuels.


I recognize that prior to approval of higher ethanol blends, the requisite studies and testing must be concluded. A number of scientific studies conducted in recent years confirm that higher ethanol blends do not cause significant changes in tailpipe emissions, vehicle drivability, materials compatibility or durability.


It’s time to end the delays and take action to further reduce our dependence on foreign oil.


I’m speaking today to ask President Obama and his staff at the White House to pay close attention to these three issues.


Our nation currently has a strong, renewable fuels infrastructure that is working every day to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Those involved are also working diligently to increase efficiencies and strive toward the second generation of advanced biofuels. But, we can’t get there by undermining today’s industry.


The President can take action within his administration to ensure that no harm is done to the renewable fuels that are displacing dirty fossil fuels today.


He can ensure that EPA uses only sound science and avoids speculative assumptions when determining the greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels.


He can take action to see that America uses even more homegrown, green energy by ensuring that even more renewable fuel is blended in our nation’s transportation mix.


And, he can take action to immediately provide the certainty for biodiesel producers that Congress intended in the energy bill of 2007.


That’s what I’m asking him to do.


By zeroing in on these three pivotal issues facing the renewable energy effort today, President Obama and his staff can make a major positive difference for the production of even more clean, renewable, domestic biofuels.





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Hopefully Senator Grassley from my state is listened to and this guy is wrong.

Market analyst Jerry Gulke told an Ethanol Leader's Summit in Wichita, Kan. Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unlikely to approve a move from E10 to E15 as an acceptable ethanol blend for standard vehicles, according to the Wichita Eagle.


"My guess is they'll phase in 12 percent over time," said Gulke, head of the Chicago-based Gulke Group.


The EPA must rule by Dec. 1 on a request made in March by Growth Energy to increase the allowable blend to E15.


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However, if you remove the murky science of emissions from indirect land use changes, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 61 percent compared to gasoline.


Similar miscalculations exist for biodiesel. The EPA miscalculated the value of co-products associated with biodiesel production, and even included a nitrogen penalty. Farmers know that growing soybeans does not require nitrogen use – soybeans capture nitrogen and return it to the soil.


Once again, where are the EPA and other entities getting the information that corn based ethanol is the equivalent of the devil? What influence is leading them around by the nose, getting them to believe that it takes over 100 acres to make one gallon of biofuel? Who is telling them we need to fertilize soybeans with nitrogen when we actually use them in rotation to fertilize the soil for us? Add in ILUC and you have an obvious lack of awareness that not only creates but perpetuates an anti biofuel sentiment in the government as well as the urban populace that is far removed from any knowledge of agriculture.


How long has Margo Oge been at the EPA and she doesnt know simple and very relevant facts about what she is supposed to enact policy and laws? Hasnt she been there well over 20 years? How long as Gina McCarthy been there and why doesnt she know a simple thing such as what an acre is? Agriculture has been part of the environment since the dawn of time, yet they know precious about it?


Perhaps its time for someone new who can actually do some research and use reason and logic. Maybe we could use someone at CARB who doesnt have financial interest in oil, since apparently they set the policy and EPA now follows along.

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