House Panel Chair Opposes Changes to Ethanol Mandate

By Published On: May 9, 2008

In the face of food riots around the world and growing domestic pressure to roll back U.S. ethanol fuel targets due to concern about rising food prices, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee opposed lowering the federal renewable fuels mandate. “In my view, amendments to the law at this time would be unwise and could lead to unintended consequences,” said Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the panel’s chair. Instead, he said, the federal Environmental Protection Agency should proceed with writing rules to implement the 2007 legal mandate, which seeks to balance “the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the need for EPA to grant waivers should unforeseen events arise.” The hearing came less than a week after Republican Presidential candidate John McCain called on EPA to adjust the mandate in light of growing food prices. Senator McCain (R-AZ) was joined by 22 Republican senators. The renewable fuels mandate calls for the nation to burn 16 billion gallons of biofuels by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022. Concern about rising food prices prompted Texas Governor Rick Perry last month to ask EPA to waive half the mandate for renewable fuels this year, cutting the mandated amount to 4.5 billion gallons. However, an ethanol industry representative said that without increased production of ethanol U.S. motorists would be paying substantially more for gasoline. The industry is seeking to make a transition to producing cellulosic ethanol that could be made from waste so that food and fuel would not have to compete with one another in the market, said Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association president. However, large-scale cellulosic ethanol production is considered years away. Editor’s Note: For a more detailed report, please see our sister publication, Energy Meets Climate Challenge, E=MC2. It can be found at www.energymeetsclimate.com

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