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AgMag BLOG

Feeding your mind, saving the planet >>

NPR: Power Breakfast

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

National Public Radio: Capitol News Connection, Elizabeth Wynne Johnson

Today the energy and climate change bill goes to mark-up in the ag committee. Where almost every member has at least one ethanol plant back in the home district.

Corn-belt lawmakers may jettison the energy bill because it uses a federal rule that calculates all the greenhouse gases generated from ethanol. So on emissions, the corn-based fuel looks not much better than gasoline. Maybe even worse. Michelle Perez of the Environmental Working Group says Congress is right to go tough on bio-fuel. "They are realizing that corn ethanol is no longer a saver but is actually aggravating the global warming and environmental problems," says Perez.

Then there’s so-called 'indirect land use' effect, which goes something like this: As American farmers grow more corn for ethanol, they may grow less of other crops, like soybeans. Soybean prices go up, which in turn triggers other countries to clear forests or plow up grassland to grow the newly-lucrative soybeans. Carbon emissions go down here. And go up over there. It all adds up to the potential loss of federal subsidies for ethanol.

Which brings us back to today. And Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). “A lot of my members are skeptical of this bill. There’s not a lot of enthusiasm on the committee even to have a mark up,” says Peterson

As many as 27 ethanol-friendly Democrats could defect. That could plow under the party’s energy and climate initiative.