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April 29, 2008

Inhofe Demands Action to Address Food vs. Fuel Mandates

Praises Oklahoma’s Leadership in Cellulosic Biomass Ethanol

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) delivered a Senate Floor speech demanding action to address the rising cost of feed and fuel due to hasty biofuel mandates. Senator Inhofe also praised Oklahoma for being a leader in cellulosic biomass ethanol, a second-generation biofuel that does not use food for fuel. Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe has worked to promote the research and development of cellulosic ethanol in Oklahoma. Senator Inhofe was awarded the “Pioneer Award in Agriculture and Plant Science” by the Oklahoma-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in December 2007
Senator Inhofe urged Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to help mitigate the effects of skyrocketing feed and fuel prices due in part to the dramatically increased biofuels mandate incorporated in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
In 2005, as chairman of the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe worked successfully to create a comprehensive program to increase the use of renewable fuels in a measured way that made economic sense. The 2007 Energy Bill, however, contained a nearly five-fold expansion in the biofuels mandate. Senator Inhofe voted against the 2007 Energy Bill because of the growing number of questions surrounding ethanol’s effect on feed prices and our agricultural community, its economic sustainability, its transportation and infrastructure needs, and its water usage.
The following are excerpts from his Senate Floor speech:

I come to the floor today to demand two dramatic and necessary actions to help mitigate our current biofuel policy blunder,” Senator Inhofe said. “First, Congress must revisit the recently enacted biofuel mandate, which can only be described as the most expansive biofuel mandate in our nation’s history. The mandates were part of the last year’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Congress must have the courage to address this issue and address it now.

“Second, the EPA has the congressionally-given authority to waive all or portions of these food-to-fuel mandates as part of its rule-making process. The EPA must thoroughly review all options to alleviate the food and fuel disruption of the 2007 Energy Bill biofuel mandates.

“These effects are being felt in my home state of Oklahoma where I’m hearing concerns regarding ethanol.  Scott Dewald with the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association described just one aspect of biofuel’s unintended consequences on April 28, ‘Cow-calf producers all the way to the feeding sector are feeling the pinch of high corn prices.  Today’s biofuels policies have completely ignored the costs to the livestock sector.’ […]

“Fortunately, all ethanol is not created equal. The idea that we can grow energy rich crops all over the country – not just in the Midwest – is something worth considering, and that’s why I support research into cellulosic biomass ethanol. I am particularly pleased by the efforts taking place in Oklahoma. This week, the Oklahoman reported in an April 28, 2008 article:  ‘As experts turn against corn ethanol, Oklahoma is continuing to elbow for a spot in the so-called second generation of the biofuels movement — a generation that won't use food for fuel. In recent months, turning corn into fuel has met criticism on two fronts: It's been blamed as a factor in sky-high food prices that have led to riots in Asia, Africa and Haiti; and it's been cast as an environmental villain, since studies say corn ethanol, on the whole, creates more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. But Oklahoma's biofuels industry is going down a different path. Since last year, the state has been investing tax money in switchgrass — a potential biofuel that's no good for food and is praised for its environmental benefits.’ […]

“Working with Congressman Frank Lucas, I sponsored and secured Senate passage of the first national transitional assistance program to help farmers grow dedicated energy crops for cellulosic biofuels. This measure is vital to the development of cellulosic biofuels in the United States because it would encourage U.S. agricultural producers within a 50-mile radius of a cellulosic biorefinery to produce non-food energy crops for clean-burning fuels. Additionally, I am proud of the research taking place in Oklahoma that is being done by the Noble Foundation and its partners. By focusing on cellulosic ethanol, we can stimulate a biofuels industry that doesn’t compete with other domestic agriculture. And since you can grow it all over the country you avoid the transportation problems of Midwest-focused ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol can increase both energy and economic security.”

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