WASHINGTON - July 10 - Environmental groups sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today urging it to suspend the federal biofuels mandate, arguing that the mandate is a major driver of unsustainable biofuels production in the United States and abroad.
"Policies that mandate the use of corn ethanol and other biofuels at the expense of the environment are a train wreck in the making," said Jonathan Lewis, an attorney with the Clean Air Task Force. "Fortunately, the petition to waive the mandate provides EPA with a much-needed off-ramp. EPA must take this opportunity to slow down and examine the ways in which biofuels threaten climate, water quality, and biodiversity."
"America needs a real energy policy focused on higher mileage standards, conservation, and clean energy solutions like solar and wind, " said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group. "Thanks largely to the ethanol mandate, pollution levels in the Gulf of Mexico are expected to reach record levels, suffocating marine life and causing a lifeless dead zone the size of Massachusetts. That's a high environmental price to pay for a biofuels policy that is straining family food budgets for the poorest Americans, and is doing next to nothing to lower gas prices," Wiles added.
"This biofuels mandate essentially dictates inaction on climate change by taking us in a useless and potentially harmful direction," said Kate McMahon, Energy and Transportation Policy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "The Environment and Public Works Committee should weigh in with the EPA to ensure that it does it's job and suspends the mandate."
Despite the inclusion of some important environmental safeguards, severe environmental degradation will occur as a result of the mandate, which was expanded in the federal energy bill passed in December. Environmental problems stemming from the mandate include soil degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss, and immense greenhouse gas emissions due to changes in land use. In light of this, the Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Working Group, and Friends of the Earth urge Congress to suspend the mandate. Any renewable fuels policy must include minimum environmental standards that protect climate, soil, air and water quality for all renewable fuels; regularly assess the effects and successes of policies; and provide a clear mechanism for adjusting mandates to prevent adverse effects.
The full text of the letter that the groups sent to the committee can be viewed at: http://www.foe.org/biofuel/07.10.08.RFS.Letter.pdf.
Friends of the Earth (foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.