"Getting biofuels right" -- the linchpin to the energy bill?

I'm going to testify in front of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming next Wednesday as part of a hearing on biofuels. The  timing couldn't be better. As I've written about before (here), the House and Senate are moving toward a comprehensive energy bill. Today E&E Daily (subscription required) ran two articles that argued that a) that a dramatic expansion of the renewable fuel standard is critical to the avoiding a Presidential veto, and b) that the ethanol industry is confident of their ability to push through such an expansion.

This from the first article,  titled "White House letter outlines veto threshold on energy" by Ben Geman:

A letter yesterday from White House economic adviser Al Hubbard to congressional leaders and committee chairs in both parties lists features of a bill that "would not compel the president's senior advisers to recommend a veto."

Atop the list of conditions is a bill that contains an alternative fuels standard comparable to the plan President Bush proposed in this year's State of the Union. The standard would require use of 35 billion gallons of gasoline alternatives annually by 2017, to be met with biofuels as well as fuels made from coal, natural gas, hydrogen and other sources.

This from the second article, titled "Biofuels mandate expected to make cut in energy talks" by Alex Kaplun:

A recent backlash against the ethanol industry -- fueled in large part by food prices and land-use concerns -- has not deterred farm-state lawmakers, the ethanol industry and environmentalists from predicting some kind of boost in the biofuel mandate will survive the House-Senate negotiations.


Both lawmakers and lobbyists in recent days said there remains strong support for expanding the mandate, even as members of Congress become increasingly aware of potential pitfalls.

In the second article, Dave Hamilton, the director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program, made the case that I have heard a number of insiders make: an expanded renewable fuel standard that threads the needle of being aggressive enough to win enthusiastic support of ag state legislators but includes sufficient environmental safeguards and performance standards not to a) drive off enviro minded legislators or b) give oil or livestock minded legislators any more ammo will be the glue that brings together a sufficient support to pass a comprehensive energy bill. 

Emphasizing the point that legislators are getting more sensitized to the potential pitfalls of biofuels and want to these, seven House Democrats sent a letter (available here) to the chairs of Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Natural Resources. The letter, led by Van Hollen included Hinchey, Miller, Grijalva, Kildee, Blumenauer, and Sarbanes. It states:

The use of biofuels can contribute to the reduction of global warming, decrease America's dependence on fossil fuels, and expand our rural economies. Pursued in the absence of prudent measures however, an indiscriminate increase in biofuels production can pose a grave risk to our lands, forests, water, air, public health, and climate.

I couldn't say it better myself and look forward to basically saying the same thing next week in my testimony, which of course I'll be linking to here ASAP.