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National Service Reauthorization Act - Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, in recent weeks and months, a new phrase has been born that has gained in popularity and support. The new phrase that is so in vogue in the Halls of Congress and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is ``green jobs.''

I have no fault with the term. Everyone wants to create green-collar jobs. Green jobs are believed to be a critical component of getting us out of the economic doldrums in which we find ourselves. A new White House middle-class task force recently focused on the creation of green jobs as a means of fueling our economy and creating jobs for the middle class. Vice President Biden has defined a green job as one that provides products and services that use renewable energy resources, reduces pollution, and conserves energy and natural resources.

I don't disagree that the creation of these types of jobs is a very worthy ambition. This newfound desire for so-called green jobs has led me to remind my colleagues of an existing industry that is making great strides to reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, and contribute significantly to our economy.

The U.S. renewable fuels industry has been creating good paying jobs in rural America for years. It has been 30 years since a tax incentive for ethanol was passed and 17 years since I fathered the wind energy tax credit. These alternative energies have been producing a renewable resource right here at home that is reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, and it has contributed to a cleaner environment.

U.S. domestic renewable fuels have been doing all these things long before it was cool or in vogue. So don't be surprised that this is the nature of America's farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs. They do things because of the intrinsic value to our country and to our economy, whether it is a fad on the east coast or not.

I happen to think it is great that there is a newfound zeal for creating renewable resources here at home. I have been supporting our domestic renewable fuels industry for nearly 30 years as a means to reduce our dependence on volatile nations for our energy, mostly for petroleum. I have been promoting clean wind energy since I fathered the wind energy tax credit back in 1992. I am pleased to see the success and the support wind energy now receives because of my tax incentive.

I hope my colleagues who tout the benefits today of the so-called green jobs fully realize the contribution the domestic ethanol and biodiesel industries have been making for years in this area. Farmers across this country produced more than 9 billion gallons of homegrown renewable fuels last year. Ethanol production displaced 321 million barrels of oil last year. That is the equivalent of our imports from Venezuela for 10 months. The use of 9 billion gallons of ethanol saved American consumers $32 billion last year.

Yet even with this success, our farmers and the biofuel industry have been under constant attack--at least constant attack over the last 2 years. In a high-priced public relations smear campaign, the food manufacturers and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have tried tirelessly to denigrate the efforts of our farmers. In a baseless campaign, they tried to blame the ethanol industry for raising food prices, even though corn makes up about a nickel of the cost of a box of Corn Flakes.

The grocery manufacturers thought they found a weak link in the food chain that they could target and scapegoat as a culprit behind the rising cost of food. It was clearly proven that the cost of energy had a significantly greater impact on food prices than did other commodity costs.

The fact is, the ones responsible for the high cost of food are the companies whose names stare back at us as we go through the grocery stores and supermarkets, and they have never hidden their motive during this smear campaign. It was stated clearly at the time the smear campaign was started that it was about ``protecting our bottom line.''

Consumers are still seeing the impact of that pocket lining by big food companies while commodity prices have dropped by half since their highs last summer. But food prices are still at record highs. Even the price of oil has dropped more than $100 a barrel. Yet food companies continue to keep prices high.

You don't need to take my word for it because we have the grocery store chains themselves fighting back now. SuperValu, Safeway, and Wegmans are just a few chains that are speaking publicly against the price increases pushed on them by Kellogg's, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, and others. An article in the Los Angeles Times as recently as March 2 stated:

Our large grocery companies operating in Southern California have seen the wholesale price for a carton of Kellogg's Corn Pops rise about 17 percent since June, despite a 52 percent plunge in corn prices from their peak this month.

The chief executive for Safeway was quoted as saying:

It is disingenuous to consumers that all commodity costs are coming down, interest rates coming down, everything is coming down, and the national brands are taking their prices up.

The chief executive of SuperValu described the situation as a ``battleground'' with manufacturers right now over prices.

I am pleased to see others in the food chain call on these food producers to lower prices in light of the large drop in commodity prices, but this isn't the reason I came to speak today. I would like to take just a few more minutes to share with my colleagues another assault that is taking place on biofuels.

In the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, Congress enacted and expanded a renewable fuels standard to greatly increase the production and use of biofuels. A component of that renewable fuels standard was a requirement that various biofuels meet specified life cycle greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The law specified that life cycle greenhouse gas emissions are to include direct emissions and significantly indirect emissions from indirect land use changes. This means that the emissions from planting, growing, and harvesting the feedstock to the production of biofuels must be included in the calculation. It also means that the Environmental Protection Agency must determine and must measure the greenhouse gas impacts if there is a significant conversion of forest or prairie-to-tillable land because of our biofuel policies.

For the past few months, the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on what we call a rulemaking--notice of proposed rulemaking--to implement the updated renewable fuels standard. While it hasn't been finalized or made public, there are great concerns about this rule within the biofuels industry surrounding the science behind indirect land use changes. And, of course, when you think of the Environmental Protection Agency, isn't science what EPA is all about?

President Obama, during his Presidential campaign and as President now, has stated that his administration will return to decisions and actions based on ``sound science.'' In January, he said:

Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense.

Well, I would encourage President Obama and his staff to take a close look at what the EPA is doing in this rulemaking process called a notice of proposed rulemaking on renewable fuels standards. There are a couple of people in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation who firmly believe--do you believe this?--they can quantify the indirect land use changes that result from our biofuels policies. I am afraid that the bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency are going down a path of blaming our biofuel producers for land use changes around the globe, and specifically even outside of the United States.

The fact is, measuring indirect emissions of greenhouse gas reduction is far from a perfect science, and dozens of credible scientists agree. There is a great deal of complexity and uncertainty surrounding this issue. One study last year claimed that biofuels, as a result of these indirect impacts, actually led to greater emissions and greenhouse gas emissions than did gasoline. This conclusion defies common sense. Under careful scrutiny, credible scientists on the other side disproved these conclusions, and I want to quote some.

Dr. Wang of the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory replied to these assertions by stating:

There has also been no indication that the United States corn ethanol production has so far caused indirect land use changes in other countries, because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year, and because U.S. distillers' grain exports have steadily increased in the past 10 years.

May I add that really what EPA--through indirect land use--is talking about here, in the most common denominator, is they figure that because Iowa or Missouri or Minnesota or Illinois corn producers are growing corn, and some of it is going into ethanol, that someplace down in Brazil, farmers are just sitting around trying to calculate and are going to plow up acre for acre the amount of land that is maybe being used for production of ethanol at this point. Well, I think the practical matter is that just isn't happening, and that is exactly what Dr. Wang is saying here. And if that were the case, what can the farmers of our country do about it? Are we going to be at the point where something that happens in some other country is going to affect our policy here in the United States as to what we can grow and what we can use that crop for? I don't think that is a credible position to take.

Now, I quoted one study, but there are a number of credible studies that have demonstrated that our biofuel policies will have little, if any, impact on international land use. A recent study by Air Improvement Resource found that the production of 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol by the year 2015 should not result in new forests or grassland conversion in the United States or abroad. Let's look at the University of Nebraska. A peer-review study conducted there and published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology found similar conclusions. They concluded that corn ethanol emits 51 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline. A third study, conducted by Global Insight, found that it is virtually impossible to accurately ascribe greenhouse gas impacts on indirect land use changes to biofuels.

There are a number of assumptions that can affect the conclusion about indirect land use changes. With any model, if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out, and I want to make sure the EPA isn't putting garbage in. I want to make sure they know yields per acre for corn have doubled between 1970 and today. I want EPA to know that nitrogen fertilizer used per acre has been declining since 1985. The Environmental Protection Agency also needs to know that the ethanol industry today is vastly more efficient than it was just a few years ago. Ethanol producers use one-fifth less energy today than they did just 8 years ago. More fuel is being produced from the same amount or even less land.

The California Air Resource Board is also trying to grasp this issue. They are developing a low carbon fuel standard which is penalizing biofuels with an indirect land use change. On March 2, 2009, to counteract this, 111 scientists sent a letter to California Governor Schwarzenegger on this very matter. The scientists are from leading research labs such as Sandia, Lawrence Berkeley, and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as leading educational institutions, including MIT, UCLA, Michigan State, and Iowa State. Scientists criticized the California Air Resource Board for proposing a regulation that alleges an indirect price-induced land conversion effect around the globe caused by a demand for agricultural production and biofuels.

In other words, they said in this official report what I just said: There isn't some Brazilian farmer just sitting around nervously awaiting whether he can plow up another acre of grassland in Brazil just because some more ethanol is being used out of products we grow here.

The letter of these 111 scientists sent to Governor Schwarzenegger stated:

The ability to predict this alleged effect depends on using an economic model to predict worldwide carbon effects, and the outcomes are unusually sensitive to the assumptions made by the researchers conducting the model run. In addition, this field of science is in its nascent stage, is controversial in much of the scientific community, and is only being enforced against biofuels.

The two primary conclusions of these scientists are that science surrounding indirect land use changes is far too limited and uncertain for regulatory enforcement.

Second, indirect effects are often misunderstood and should not be enforced selectively.

Several of us in the Senate are trying to get the Environmental Protection Agency to wake up and reconsider some of their thoughts. Last week I had the opportunity to join my Iowa colleague, Senator Harkin, as well as 10 other Senators, in appealing to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to be cautious on this issue and as doctors would say about medicine: First do no harm.

Because of the incomplete and limited science, we urge in our letter against any premature and, of course, inaccurate conclusions on indirect land use changes. Instead, the EPA should move forward by allowing for public review and refinement of the methodology that they have developed. I am afraid the climate folks at EPA are heading in the wrong direction on this issue. I do not think they are bad people, but I am afraid they do not understand much about American agriculture. I do not think they are aware of the significant crop yield improvements we have seen in recent years or the great potential for the next 20 years.

I will just give my own farming operation as an example. In 1959, when I started farming, we were raising, on average, about 60 bushels of corn per acre. It happened that the first year I farmed I produced considerably less than that amount, but eventually, within 15 years, this farmer, as well as the Iowa average, had gone to about 90 bushels of corn per acre.

Last year, in my county, we raised 175 bushels of corn per acre. During that period of time, we went from tilling the field probably six or seven times over to produce a crop to now a point where we are only tilling the field once or twice before harvest. In each of these processes, we are producing more corn, we are producing it more efficiently, and at the same time we have an abundance.

When I started farming, farmers were producing about enough food for 44 other people. A family farmer today produces enough food for 140 other people.

I think we have made great progress, but I am not sure EPA understands the efficiency of the American farmer today and for sure they do not understand that people in Brazil are not just sitting around, seeing how they can take advantage of the fact that American farmers might be producing some of their crop for sustainable energy production in this country as opposed to importing more oil.

I also do not think these people fully understand the benefits of valuable ethanol byproducts, which further reduce the effective land used for fuel production.

Along this line, do they understand that when you take a bushel of corn to make 3 gallons of ethanol that corn is not gone forever, that 18 pounds of the 56 pounds that is in a bushel of corn is left over for animal feed? So it is not all going to production of energy.

To me, it defies common sense that the EPA would publish a proposed rulemaking with harmful conclusions about biofuels based on incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions and especially in light of President Obama's commitment to use sound science in decisionmaking by the bureaucracy carrying out the laws we pass. The Environmental Protection Agency's action, if based on erroneous land-use assumptions, could hinder biofuel development and extend America's dependence upon dirtier fossil fuels from parts of the world that are not very stable.

Agricultural practices and land-use decisions in other countries are not driven by U.S. biofuel policies. In other words, there is no Brazilian farmer sitting around in Brazil, waiting to see what Iowa farmers are going to do with their corn--for food or export or for fuel. Even if they were, we have no accurate way to measure it scientifically and we need to ensure that in that measurement, biofuels get credit for these increased efficiencies of production--of the basic commodity as well as the increase in efficiency producing the ethanol.

President Obama was, and as far as I know is still, a strong proponent of our domestic biofuels industry and he especially was during his time in the Senate. I know he recognizes the benefit of producing homegrown renewable fuels, and I doubt he would agree with the conclusion that biofuels emit the same or more lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions as does gasoline.

I hope the EPA will reconsider its conclusions on this or not hastily draw conclusions.

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