The new Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules on biofuels would factor in potential conversion of forest and pasture land both in the U.S. and overseas as a result of biofuels production. That indirect land use calculation would be used to gauge whether or not some biofuels would meet required cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber said that these calculations were obtained from several studies and models but there remains a lot of uncertainty surrounding those numbers, especially the new untested indirect land use studies.
"That's where the big source of uncertainty is," Glauber said. "You know we do forecasts all the time and people take that uncertainty with the forecast. The difference here of course is you're regulating on the outcomes of this modeling effort and that I think is the big question."
During a House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., fired off a volley at the EPA saying they "are going to kill off the biofuels industry before it ever gets started." He also accused EPA of "being in bed with the oil companies."
"Why would you put indirect cost on corn and soybeans and not put it on oil," Peterson said. "What about all the indirect cost of protecting the oil shipping lanes in the Middle East, that's not counted. I mean this is ridiculous what's going on here. This stuff gets put in in the middle of the night, over our objections; we've been trying to fix this for two years. I go down and meet with people, nothing happens, you know we're off on some peer review; why aren't we peer reviewing these other things."
Peterson went on to say that the way things are going he will not support any climate change bill, because he "doesn't trust anyone anymore."
"The only way I would consider supporting any kind of climate change bill is if it was ironclad that these agencies had no ability to make any rulemaking of any kind, whatsoever," Peterson said. "If we had everything dotted and crossed, and we could be absolutely guaranteed that these folks would not get involved, then maybe we could talk about it."
Following the hearing Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, released a statement echoing Peterson's views and calling for the indirect land use component of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to be repealed, citing the hearing as proof that it is not ready for inclusion in government regulations.
"It is unfair to penalize American biofuels producers for land use decisions in other countries that they have no control over," Buis said. "The fact is land use decisions are enormously complicated and involve many factors that have nothing to do with renewable fuels, including changes in currency, monetary policy, export needs, productivity gains, and weather just to name a few. Meanwhile, the EPA has failed to examine the indirect effects of petroleum and gives gasoline an unfair advantage. "