Close Call for Biofuel Climate Safeguards in Senate Appropriations

Close Call for Biofuel Climate Safeguards in Senate Appropriations

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Senator Harkin, along with Senators Grassley and Nelson, attempted to scrape funding for EPA to finish their lifecycle analysis of global warming pollution in the 2010 Senate Appropriations Bill.  The target of their fury was the inclusion of emissions from deforestation and other forms of land use change that occurs indirectly from increased biofuels production in the lifecycle assessment of biofuels for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).  The RFS is a policy that was passed in 2007 which mandates the blending of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022.  With a massive ramp-up in biofuels production, it is critical that comprehensive climate and forest protections are included in any sort of incentive to increase biofuels production.

Specifically, Harkin, Grassley and Nelson wanted to introduce an amendment that would have removed funding from EPA to propose regulations for biofuels that include indirect land use change in the lifecycle global warming assessment.   Indirect land use change emissions occur when land that was previously used to grow food and feed is converted to grow biofuels instead, causing in land use changes around the world as agricultural markets shift to accommodate for decreasing supply of food grains.  EPA, however, is including these emissions under the direction of Congress from the 2007 Energy Bill.   

Luckily, a large coalition of groups, including Friends of the Earth, rallied against this move, resulting in Harkin withdrawing his amendment and allowing EPA to continue it’s critical work to finalize their life-cycle analysis.  This, on top of a rumor of a substitute amendment that would have nullified Harkin’s amendment, caused Harkin to withdrawl. 

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