[UPDATE 19/VI: The amendment was defeated (yay!) 29-30 (oy!).]
Voting is scheduled tomorrow starting at 11 EDT on amendments to the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, of which the one you need to know about is # 019, the contribution of Jo Ann [corrected 18-VI-09] Emerson (R-MO):
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act may be used to promulgate or carry out any regulation that includes a determination of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions calculated in part by inclusion of indirect emissions from land use changes.
This is a particularly vile attempt to protect the corn industry at the expense of the planet by short-circuiting the science Obama promised would guide his administration. I discussed the importance of land use change here; last week I was testifying at the public hearing on EPA’s rulemaking on the Renewable Fuel Standard, in which EPA admirably includes estimates of this effect for all fuels, as required by the explicit language of the Energy Independence and Security Act. I can’t be too clear or flatfooted about this: there is no respectable or responsible view that growing biofuel feedstock on land that could be used for food does not cause an indirect land use discharge of greenhouse gas, and corn ethanol is the biofuel with the largest indirect land use change effect. There is a strongly held view on the part of everyone making money from corn that if corn ethanol really is more global-warming-intensive than gasoline, the correct policy response is to pretend that it isn’t, and this amendment is the mechanism of that pretense.
Philosophically, the analysis of this issue is in a version of the old joke:
“If you ignore his front legs, how many legs does a dog have?”
“Four. Ignoring them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Practically, the consequences of enacting this toxic little item may be enormous. First, it trashes Obama’s promise to respect science and besmirches the reputation of the Congress along the same line. Again, this is not a close scientific call even though the size of the LUC effect for a given fuel is subject to debate, it’s a disagreement between people who will say anything for money and people who know what they’re talking about. Second, it pulls the rug out from under any credibility for the US in the climate treaty negotiations that will occur in Copenhagen in December. If we are willing to make stuff up and stifle the science with legislation like this, countries like India and China, and the Europeans, have no reason to get on board, especially after the last eight years of Bush administration denial and ignorantism and stasis on climate. It will be a catastrophe.
Now would be a good time to weigh in with the president, who absolutely needs to make a phone call, and with the following members of the subcommittee, especially if one is your rep or someone you know:
Chair: Norman D. Dicks (WA-d)
James P. Moran (VA-d)
Alan B. Mollohan (WV-d)
Ben Chandler (KY-d)
Maurice D. Hinchey (NY-d)
John W. Olver (MA-d)
Ed Pastor (AZ-d)
David E. Price (NC-d)
David R. Obey (WI-d), Ex Officio
Ranking Member: Michael K. Simpson (ID-r)
Ken Calvert (CA-r)
Steven C. LaTourette (OH-r)
Tom Cole (OK-r)
Jerry Lewis (CA-r), Ex Officio
Contact info here; unfortunately unless you go to their individual web pages, email is impractical; fax is probably best.