Deal in the House moves climate bill, breaks the RFS

Yesterday, Representatives Waxman and Peterson announced that they have reached a deal that secures Peterson's support for the climate bill. Outlines of the deal are still coming out, but it clearly implements a five year delay in accounting for emissions biofuels related to international indirect land-use change. During the delay, EPA and USDA are to commission a study on ILUC and how to account for it. After the study, ILUC would be part of the RFS enforcement again, but only if EPA and USDA can agree on a methodology. It also puts the USDA in a lead on ag related offsets and seeks input from the Administration on the appropriate roles for EPA and USDA, though Waxman and Paterson appear to have agreed to continue to negotiate on this issue after the House passes the bill to influence a Senate bill and conference. We're also worried that the deal will still be expanded to allow destructive sourcing of biomass from our most sensitive landscapes.

The climate bill is the most significant piece of environmental legislation every voted on by an order of magnitude just in terms of its scope and the amount of money that it will reinvest in lower-carbon technologies. (And all you loyal readers that care about stopping global warming should go to our action page and take action to support the bill.) Chairman Waxman is apparently doing what he feels necessary to move forward with putting the firm limit on carbon pollution this country urgently needs. The shame is that the biofuels industry made the price of progress a denial of science--a move that could lead to more dirty fuels and risks further undermining the public's confidence in biofuels.

NRDC strongly supports the requirement in current law to consider all the impacts of producing biofuels. If biofuels are to become an accepted part of our energy future, Congress should not gag EPA from telling the truth about which biofuels are climate winners and which are losers.

A delay in full lifecycle accounting combined with a weakening in the biomass sourcing safeguards poses a grave risk to forests and wild lands around the world. I wrote about this recently--we need to understand that we cannot add the demand for 36 billion gallon of biofuels to our landscape--a demand equal to our annual average timber harvest for the two decades--without huge costs unless we have serious safeguards.

Agricultural offsets can play an important part in our national climate protection strategy but EPA needs to be provided adequate authority to ensure that the offsets are of equivalent quality to emission reductions from covered emission sources.

In the meantime, it's time to recognize that the  real threat to a robust biofuels industry is not a requirement for honest accounting and sustainable sourcing of biomass.  The real threat is loss of public support for these programs due to well founded objections to fuels that without good rules of the road, lead to bulldozing of habitats, more water pollution, more smog forming pollution and, without truth in accounting, more global warming pollution too.