Senators Call on EPA to Act on Rising Food and Feed Prices by Waiving Ethanol Mandates
May 5, 2008
Posted by Matt Dempsey 1:24pm
On Friday, May 2, 2008, Senator Inhofe (R-Okla), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined several Senate Republicans in sending a letter to Steve Johnson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking the EPA to exercise its waiver authority regarding the biofuel mandate.
The letter states:
“Congress gave the EPA authority to waive all or portions of these mandates, as well as rule-making authority to structure the mandates for the benefit of all Americans. We believe the EPA should begin the process of examining alternatives to ease severe economic and emerging environmental consequences that are developing in America as a result of the mandate…
“American families are feeling the financial strain of these food-to-fuel mandates in the grocery aisle and are growing more concerned about the emerging environmental concerns of growing corn-based ethanol. It is essential for the EPA to respond quickly to the consequences of these mandates. Congress made the mandates in the EISA different from existing mandates to provide flexibility and to encourage innovation in advanced and cellulosic fuels. We believe today’s circumstances merit the use of this flexibility.”
As noted on the Inhofe EPW Press Blog last week, momentum appears to be growing on Capitol Hill to revisit the increased ethanol mandate signed into law last December. In addition to Sen. Inhofe’s Senate floor speech on April 29, several Senators have spoken out on the need to take action regarding the ethanol mandate.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the letter in its May 3 article, “Corn Ethanol Loses More Support,” noting:
“Rising food prices are prodding lawmakers in Washington to rethink support for corn ethanol. Two dozen Republican senators on Friday -- including Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R., Ariz.) -- asked the Environmental Protection Agency to ease requirements mandated by Congress in 2007 to blend more ethanol and other renewable fuels into the gasoline supply. The lawmakers said the mandates are contributing to a sharp increase in food prices. Sen. McCain has been a critic of ethanol subsidies. ‘With the price of everyday meat, chicken, bread and eggs rapidly increasing, we are asking the EPA to use the flexibility that Congress gave them, because so many families cannot afford the increasing prices at the grocery store,’ said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas). An EPA spokesman couldn't be reached to comment. EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said the agency "will review waiver requests and respond according to the law." The move by the Republican Senate group is the latest sign that Washington's support for turning corn into motor fuel is wavering in the face of soaring food prices, despite the popularity of ethanol subsidies in farm states critical to the November election.”
Today, the Associated Press reports that both Democratic Presidential nominees addressed the issue over the weekend. The AP article, “Obama: Change in ethanol policy might be needed” quotes Senators Obama and Clinton:
Senator Obama: “‘What I've said is my top priority is making sure people are able to get enough to eat. If it turns out we need to make changes in our ethanol policy to help people get something to eat, that has got to be the step we take,’said Obama, D-Ill., on NBC's ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘We have rising food prices around the United States. In other countries, we're seeing riots because of the lack of food supply, so this is something we're going to have to deal with,’ he said.”
Senator Clinton: “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaking on ABC's ‘This Week,’ agreed the issue needs closer review. ‘What we need to do is accelerate the research into farm waste and into other cellulosic plant materials. Because, I think, instead of using the corn, let's figure out if we can use the corn cob,’ she said. ‘Let's figure out if we can use the corn stalk. Let's figure out what other kind of food, you know, waste we can use.’” Clinton added: ‘In the short run, we've got to work with our farmers and with like-minded people around the world to figure out how this increasing use in biofuels, which is part of our answer to our dependence on foreign oil, does not undermine food production and really accelerate the prices.’”