Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov
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Inhofe's new allies on ethanol issue surprising
by JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Sunday, January 30, 2011
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's efforts on ethanol have provided unlikely allies for the Oklahoma Republican perhaps best known to such groups for calling man-made global warming a hoax.
"Unholy alliance" is how Inhofe described the development in an interview.
In the past, some environmental groups now coming down on the side against ethanol have not been shy when it came to taking on Inhofe, especially on the global-warming issue.
He even suggested that some may be too embarrassed to "come out of the closet" and announce their support of his efforts publicly.
Kate McMahon, the biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, was not reticent about discussing the matter publicly and even complimented Inhofe for having a good staff to work on such issues.
"Simply put, in this city, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies," McMahon said.
"Over here at Friends of the Earth, we're not embarrassed. We revel in the fact that we can overcome our differences with unconventional allies in order to get things done."
She said ethanol is not a partisan issue but is definitely a regional one.
McMahon said her concerns over corn ethanol are directly related to its impact on the issue of global warming. Ethanol, she said, has more global-warming impact than gasoline in many ways.
Clearly Inhofe, who dismisses global warming, carved out his stance on ethanol for other reasons.
McMahon said such differences do not concern her.
A statement from the Environmental Working Group did not cite Inhofe by name as it described its efforts to join a diverse group to end federal support for corn ethanol.
Issues surrounding ethanol are not limited to an environmentalist's perspective, said the statement attributed to Sheila Karpf, Environmental Working Group's legislative and policy analyst for agriculture.
Climate change already is causing more extreme weather events throughout the world, it stated.
Inhofe again stepped up his efforts against ethanol after the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol to be sold for newer model passenger vehicles.
He believes he has won a commitment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to hold a hearing on ethanol.
"We are rolling. We are going to get this done," said Inhofe, the panel's top Republican.
A date for that hearing has not been announced.
During his frequent travels across Oklahoma, the senator said, he runs across signs promoting the availability of "100 percent gas."
"What I am doing is very popular right now," Inhofe said, adding that he routinely hears from Oklahomans who do not want to use gasoline with ethanol.
Concerns over ethanol include potential damage to certain engines, confusion at the pump, lack of availability for "clear" gasoline, lower mileage for fuel with ethanol and higher feed stock prices for farmers.
Inhofe has warned that the EPA is pushing too much ethanol too fast and criticized Congress for doing too little to provide appropriate oversight of such decisions.
EPA insisted its decision on so-called E15 fuel was backed by "sound science."
Lisa Jackson, the agency's administrator, said recent testing shows that E15 does not harm emissions-control equipment in newer cars and light trucks.
Ethanol continues to have its supporters in Congress as well.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said EPA made the right decision on granting its E15 waiver. Grassley cited claims from domestic ethanol producers that using more ethanol in gasoline will reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels.