US House passes climate change bill

By Erin Voegele | June 03, 2009
Report posted June 29, 2009, at 11:30 a.m. CST

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 on June 26 by a vote of 219 to 212. The legislation, which seeks to establish a federal carbon cap-and-trade program, also includes a provision regarding indirect land use change.

In a statement released after the House vote, President Obama said that there are those who argue that the status quo is acceptable and would have us continue our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels despite the risks to our security, our economy and the plant. "But the American people know that the nation that leads in building a 21st century clean energy economy is the nation that will lead in creating a 21st century global economy," he continued. "I want America to be that nation. And with this vote, the House has put America on the path to being that nation."

"The fact is, just weeks ago, few in Washington believed that this day would come to pass," Obama said. "The best bet - the safe bet - was that after three decades of failure, we couldn't muster the political will to tackle the energy challenge despite the necessity and urgency of action. But although Washington may not see it yet, there is a spirit of change that's taken hold across this country. As has happened at every critical juncture in our history, the American people are demanding that we abandon the failed policies and politics of the past; we no longer accept inaction; that we face up to the challenges of our time. And today, the House has done exactly that."

The land use change provision contained in the bill is designed to ensure there is widespread scientific agreement linking biofuels to indirect land use change before the U.S. EPA can impose such a greenhouse gas penalty on biofuels. The agreement would ultimately ensure that science - not politics - would determine whether the EPA can move forward with the theory. In addition, an entity such as the National Academy of Sciences would be required to conduct a study on whether there is a link between biofuels and tropical deforestation. In the meantime, the EPA would be prevented from imposing an indirect land use penalty on biofuels for at least five years. At the end of this five-year timeframe, the EPA, U.S. DOE, and USDA would need to agree that such a link exists and can be effectively prohibited. At that time, Congress would have one year to review the issue before EPA could move forward.

"We commend the House of Representatives for passing legislation today that would fix a flawed provision of current law that threatens the future of biofuels production in the U.S., and continues our nation's reliance on foreign oil," Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said. "The legislation prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from adopting rules to penalize domestic ethanol and biodiesel production for land use changes occurring in foreign countries."

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen praised House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman for negotiating a good faith compromise on international indirect land use change and its application in penalizing U.S. ethanol production. "Fairly and accurately determining the carbon footprint and consequences of all our energy choices is critical," he said. "Penalizing biofuels for decisions made in other parts of the world defies logic. Chairmen Peterson and Waxman have recognized this fact and negotiated a fair compromise that will allow for the continued growth of America's biofuels industry and achieve our environmental and energy goals. When equally compared to gasoline and petroleum, study after study has concluded that biofuels are better for the economy, the environment and our nation's energy security."

"When you have representatives from rural Minnesota, San Francisco, and Beverly Hills agreeing on an issue like they did here on the issue of international land use change and biofuels, it sends an incredibly strong signal that the politics were getting ahead of science on this issue, and we urge the EPA to take notice as part of the RFS2 rulemaking," American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings said. "While we're pleased with the House's passage of this bill, we recognize that at this stage the EPA still proposes to ascribe a carbon penalty to biofuels based on unsubstantiated predictions of international land use changes. ACE is calling on the Senate to adopt language similar to how the House corrected this unfair carbon penalty, and we ask EPA to reconsider its approach."