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Public Statements

Biofuels And The EPA

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, last week, President Obama delivered a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the environment and on clean energy. He made an appeal for congressional support for biofuels, wind, and solar energy, clean coal technology. Naturally, as father of the wind energy tax credit of about 18 years ago, I share President Obama's support for homegrown renewable energy. When the President was in the
Senate, he and I worked together to promote the production and distribution of biodiesel and ethanol. It is because of our common interest and shared support that I make an 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 3, 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 my State of Iowa. I was happy they accepted my invitation. It was a very good visit.

With the tremendous impact 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 the opportunity to share my concerns on many pending issues, and I believe these EPA officials were a welcome audience.

The first issue I am speaking about relates to the EPA's proposal to penalize biofuels for greenhouse gas emissions from supposed changes in international--I emphasize international--land use. I know President Obama is aware of my concerns because I relayed them to him personally over lunch at the White House on May 6 of this year. Their new renewable fuels standard, enacted in the year 2007, requires various biofuels to meet specified life cycle greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

The law specified that the life cycle 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--remembering that the other figure was just 16 percent compared to gasoline. So you can see what we know from science--sound science--is ethanol is very environmentally positive.

The EPA's models conclude that changes in international land use--again, emphasis upon 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 is why Senator Harkin and I, along with 10 other Senators, asked EPA earlier this year not to include calculations of indirect land-use changes. But the EPA ignored the request of Senator Harkin and myself.

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 coproducts. Similar miscalculations exist for biodiesel as I have explained for ethanol. The EPA miscalculated the value of coproducts associated with biodiesel production and even included a nitrogen penalty.

I wish to speak to the nitrogen penalty because it is a case of total ignorance on the part of the EPA. Farmers know that growing soybeans does not require nitrogen use. Soybeans, in fact, capture nitrogen and return that very valuable product to the soil naturally.

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 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 to us in the Congress. 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 it is 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 there is no scientific agreement or no consensus that links U.S. biofuels production to international land-use changes. The amendment blocked EPA's consideration of international land-use changes for 5 years, until it can be measured using what we ought to expect them to use--sound science. There is strong bipartisanship on the record in opposition to EPA's finding in this area. So I hope EPA gets 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 yet been finalized and may not be until well into next year.

The U.S. biodiesel producers are in a tough financial situation. They need this mandate--which Congress did enact--to ensure a domestic marketplace for their renewable fuels. 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.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a copy of the letter to President Obama.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record

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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, the domestic biofuels producers are in a precarious state, so we asked President Obama to take immediate action to implement the volume mandates for biodiesel. It is 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 fuels. Earlier this year, a number of ethanol producers submitted a request to EPA to allow higher blends of ethanol. Currently, ethanol blends are limited to 10 percent in nonflex-fuel vehicles. The waiver request is simply requesting that EPA allow ethanol to be blended at 15 percent levels instead of 10 percent.

While the waiver request was submitted back in March, the EPA has not made a decision. 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 imports.

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

I am 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 is what I am 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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