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The Politico reports that “rural Democrats are threatening to vote against climate change legislation unless the Environmental Protection Agency halts new proposals that could hamper the development of corn ethanol.” Recently the EPA released a report finding that changes in land use worldwide indirectly related to increased corn ethanol production in the U.S. could disqualify the biofuel as a renewable fuel.
As a result, House Ag Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota and 26 Democrats on the Ag Committee have said they will vote against President Obama’s climate change bill. Peterson told the New York Times that as many as 45 Ds will vote against the bill. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Chuck Grassley of Iowa has introduced legislation that would remedy the situation (from the pro-ethanol point of view).
The EPA has counted “indirect land use” to show that ethanol has little effect on reducing global warming pollution. What’s that? Politico’s example is that changes in which crops are planted in the U.S. could result in changes in crops planted worldwide. More corn planted in the U.S. could result in increased deforestation of rain forests in South America, for example. U.S. farmers (and farm-state politicians) object to this kind of calculation, which requires U.S. farmers to be responsible for land use decisions made on other continents. Farm Policy reports that deforestation in Brazil has actually fallen over the last five years, and that the country reports that it can triple its grain and beef production without having to cut down a single tree.