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House Committee Debates Future Federal Support of Biofuels

Submitted by on July 28, 2017 – 5:25 pmNo Comment

by Sara Taginawa (Environmental and Energy Study Institute)  On Tuesday, July 25, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing examining the future of biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to Emily Skor, chief executive officer of Growth Energy, biofuels added $42.1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016 and supported nearly 340,000 U.S. jobs. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to conventional gasoline, and advanced biofuels could reduce emissions upwards of 90 percent, according to research from Argonne National Laboratory.

Skor stated that the RFS sets a “long-term predictable energy strategy” to increase biofuels in the fuel supply, encouraging investment and innovation in biofuels.   

But as the industry advances, some want to reduce federal support for biofuels and eliminate the RFS. According to John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, biofuels have higher carbon emissions than petroleum. DeCicco said this is because biofuel production has led to the expansion of croplands, and changes in land use release carbon into the atmosphere. However, credible research has found the opposite to be true. For example, a 2017 report issued by the USDA states that “despite the increase in corn ethanol production, deforested land in Brazil decreased over the same period.”

 Biogas allows farms, dairies, and industries to use their own organic waste to produce energy, requiring no additional cropland. Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL) noted that with biogas, a dairy farm in his district generates more energy than the farm is able to use. Currently, biogas is over 90 percent of the cellulosic fuels category.

Nick Loris, a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, argued that biofuels have hurt rural America and low-income families with rising costs of land and food. Though according to Skor, ethanol production has stabilized U.S. corn prices, which are now lower than they were before the RFS was implemented.

On July 26, Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced the FUEL Reform Act (Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines) which would eliminate the Farm Bill’s Energy Title (IX), which provides loans and grants to farmers, ranchers and small businesses to encourage investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and the production of renewable bioproducts such as fuels and chemicals.  According to Biggs, “The biofuels subsidies in the farm bill don’t benefit the market; instead, they pervert it. If biofuels succeed, it should be based on their benefit to our nation’s energy economy.”  The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Gohmert (R-TX), Trent (R-AZ), and Jones (R-NC).

Similarly, both the House and Senate appropriations bills significantly reduce funding for renewable energy programs. This includes the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance for production and utilization of biomass for heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels. READ MORE

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