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“Leave Ethanol’s Carbon Footprint Alone or Waxman-Markey Gets It”

Collin Peterson gets his way - or elseThat’s the message from House Ag committee chair Collin Peterson (D. Minnesota) who has come out swinging at the proposed EPA framework for assessing the environmental footprint of ethanol.

The highly miffed Democratic congressman has vowed to “crush” the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, America’s latest (if not last), best hope to finally start assuming a leadership role in climate and energy.

What has Peterson and other farm state legislators in such a tizzy stems from the “unreasonable” restrictions placed on the biofuels industry in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 in conjunction with the proposed EPA rules calling corn-based ethanol a “net emitter” of greenhouse gas.

Even though the EPA’s take on corn ethanol was relatively tame in contrast to previous studies characterizing it as a “carbon catastrophe,” Peterson is having none of it. This in spite of the fact that first-generation biofuel mandates are already grandfathered in by the 2007 energy bill and that second-generation cellulosic biofuels get a clean bill of health from the EPA. In other words, the EPA’s proposed framework rules will have no direct effect on corn-based ethanol.

Nonetheless, Peterson has vowed to sink any climate change legislation unless he gets his way in the form of passage of his Renewable Fuel Standard Improvement Act that would revoke any rules from the EPA regarding the environmental impact from Big Ag.

It appears as if Peterson is afraid that the $5 billion dollars the federal government spends annually to subsidize corn ethanol might come under increased scrutiny if any sort of climate change bill is passed and the lead federal environmental agency says corn-based ethanol is no better – or even worse – than gasoline in terms of GHG emissions.

But we all know the future is in cellulosic ethanol, don’t we? Well perhaps for some, but Peterson’s championed-sized support for ethanol wanes a bit when the discussion turns from Big Ag’s grip on first generation corn-based ethanol to the promise of emerging second-generation cellulosic biofuel.

Peterson claims he “doesn’t trust anyone anymore.” Indeed, I wonder if we can trust Peterson’s motivation and thuggish behavior?

Image credit: CollinPeterson.house.gov

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