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EPW Hearing Focuses on Challenges, Opportunities of the Renewable Fuels Standard 

Senator Inhofe Encourages Committee to Hold Additional Hearings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today welcomed the opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities in developing a reasonable Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The Environment and Public Works Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over transportation fuels, including renewable fuels.  As Chairman of the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe co-authored the Reliable Fuels Act, which was ultimately incorporated into the Energy Policy Act of  2005. The Act created a comprehensive program to increase the use of renewable fuels in a measured and economic approach.  Under Senator Inhofe’s leadership, the EPW Committee and Subcommittee held 14 hearings on the RFS program, examining issues from the future of transportation fuels to the implementation of the RFS program.  Senator Inhofe voted against the 2007 Democrat Energy Bill because it significantly increased the renewable fuels mandate. 

“Today as American families are feeling the financial strain of the food vs. fuel mandates resulting from corn-based ethanol, Congress must take a hard look at the recently enacted energy bill,” Senator Inhofe said. “Today’s EPW hearing provided the Committee our first opportunity to get the facts on the implementation of the 2007 Energy Bill.  In my home state of Oklahoma, many cattlemen, pork producers, and poultry producers are struggling with record high corn prices.  The Committee needs to hear from the livestock producers, the corn growers, the ethanol producers, the states, the oil refiners, the economists, and others to fully understand and appreciate the consequences of this program. Today’s hearing was a good first start, and I am hopeful that the Committee will respond to my request to schedule more hearings to further examine current RFS policies in the coming months.

“When the Senate passed the 2007 Democrat Energy Bill, I voted ‘no’ because it significantly increased the renewable fuels mandate in an irresponsible manner.  It contained a nearly five-fold expansion in the bio-fuels mandate. The bill ignored a number of questions surrounding ethanol’s effect on food prices, its effect on feed prices and our agricultural community, its economic sustainability, its transportation and infrastructure needs, and its water usage.  At the time, I argued it was just too early to significantly increase the mandate and that the fuels industry needed more time to adapt and catch-up with the many developing challenges facing corn-based ethanol.  From everything we have witnessed over the past six months, I was right.  “Despite the obvious drawbacks of today’s massive corn-based ethanol mandates, I do support a role for both ethanol and other biofuels.  The idea that we can grow and produce biofuels all over the country – not just in the Midwest – is something worth pursuing and that’s why I support research into cellulosic and other biofuels.  I am particularly pleased by the efforts taking place in Oklahoma by the Noble Foundation and its partners.  By focusing on a broad range of biofuels, we can stimulate an industry that doesn’t compete with other domestic agriculture.   

“I have long said that America’s energy supply should be stable, diverse, and affordable. I believe we must utilize all domestic energy resources. Through my leadership position on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I have worked to craft legislation and conduct hearings to meet these goals. Developing and expanding domestic energy resources, like biofuels, will translate into energy security and will ensure stable sources of supply and well-paying jobs for Oklahomans and Americans.”   

Background: Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe has worked to promote the research and development of cellulosic and other biofuels 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.

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.

On April 29, 2008, Senator Inhofe delivered a Senate floor speech [Video Clips of Speech Available on Inhofe YouTube Channel ]calling for "dramatic" action to address global food difficulties caused in part by current biofuel mandates. Specifically, Senator Inhofe called on Congress to revisit the recently enacted biofuels mandate, a nearly five-fold expansion over previous levels.  The mandates were part of last year's Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He also called on the Environmental Protection Agency to thoroughly review all options to alleviate the food and fuel disruption of the 2007 Energy Bill biofuel mandates. Senator Inhofe explained,  "Now when you have Lester Brown, Miles O'Brien, Dan Rather, Time Magazine, the New York Times, the United Nations, and James Inhofe all in agreement on changing an environmental policy, you can rest assured the policy is horribly misguided. All of these publications and individuals now realize the pure folly of the Federal government's biofuel mandates."

On May 2, 2008, Senator Inhofe joined two dozen Senators 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 mandates. 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."

Calls For Congressional Action on Biofuel Mandate Growing - Momentum appears to be growing on Capitol Hill this week to revisit the increased ethanol mandate signed into law last December.  Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, delivered a floor speech on April 29, adding momentum to spur action on Capitol Hill to revisit the current corn ethanol mandates.    

Inhofe Op-Ed: Oklahoma Journal Record: Natural Gas Production Essential To Oklahoma And The Country

Inhofe Praises Pickens Call For Increasing Use Of Natural Gas, Wind Power 

Inhofe Op-Ed: Tulsa World: America's Carbon Policy

Oklahoman Editorial: Alternative Energy: State Can Help Lead The Way