(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Burning fuel for transportation is responsible for about one-third of our global warming pollution. We also send billions of dollars overseas each year to buy foreign oil, often to unstable regions of the world.
There are solutions to our fuel crisis that will cut fuel prices, cut our imports of foreign oil, and cut global warming emissions. Renewable fuels can start us on this path.
But we need to have stronger incentives to move us away from oil and conventional biofuels and towards cellulosic and other advanced biofuels that have a smaller carbon and environmental footprint, are good for our economy, and will make us more energy secure. Cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels can be made from agricultural waste, grass, and many non-food sources.
That is why I support the development of cellulosic ethanol, and why the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner global warming legislation included many strong incentives, including a low carbon fuel standard, to move us towards these advanced biofuels.
I believe that we must do everything possible to move towards these advanced biofuels. I also believe that we must understand the implications for the economy, including food prices, of current policies that promote the increased use of corn-based ethanol.
The role that the ethanol mandate is playing in the recent spikes in food prices is controversial. This Administration has estimated that about 3 percent of the increase in global food prices is due to use of biofuels. The Agriculture Department estimates that the recent upswing in biofuels production is only a small contributor to increased domestic food prices—an increase of one quarter of one percent or less.
But other estimates of the cost impacts of biofuels production are higher. It is clear that corn prices, for example, are affected by ethanol production. Higher corn prices are having impacts on some food producers, such as the poultry producers in my home state of California, who have told me they are really being hurt by increasing feed prices.
I believe we must create stronger incentives for moving more quickly towards cellulosic and advanced biofuels, and that we must move away from reliance on corn-based ethanol.
I am concerned about increasing corn and soybean prices, and I look forward to hearing more about this issue today. I believe that we need to review our policies regarding grain ethanol incentives, including the domestic ethanol subsidy and the tariffs on foreign ethanol.
With the Energy Bill that we passed in December of 2007, we have taken the first step through the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard to replacing oil in our cars with home-grown fuels. We also set targets for advanced biofuels in the bill.
We must consider lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts when evaluating biofuels. Getting off oil is a crucial benefit, and we also must maximize the reduction in global warming pollution.
We are very close to significant breakthroughs in biofuels that will transform how we power our cars and trucks, clean up our air, improve our energy security, keep our dollars at home, and protect our climate. We owe it to our grandchildren to push aggressively for these new solutions that will transform our economy and help save our planet.
I want to thank Senator Carper for convening this important oversight hearing today, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
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