WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders are being urged by environmental, family farmer, and social justice organizations to ensure that a radical biofuels provision passed by the Senate be left out of final energy legislation under consideration this fall.
In a letter being sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, the groups warn that the massive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed by the Senate earlier this year could lead to significant environmental and social harm. The RFS would mandate the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022, a five-fold increase over current levels. Fifteen billion gallons of this total would come from corn-based ethanol, and the remaining 21 billion gallons would be so-called « advanced biofuels » — fuels that could be produced from anything other than corn starch, including environmentally degrading imported sugarcane ethanol and palm oil.
« Congress has a chance to pass an energy bill that is a major step forward on global warming, with stronger fuel economy standards and a transition to clean, alternative forms of energy, » said Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth. « However, this bad biofuels provision, if it remains in the bill, will harm both the people and environment of our planet. »
The RFS will do little to support sustainable agriculture or rural economies and will cause substantial environmental damage, the groups warned, pointing specifically to the provision’s potential to lead to increased fertilizer use, consumption of scarce water resources, deforestation to produce more cropland, and further consolidation of corporate agribusiness. The provision could also lead to increased global warming emissions, the groups said.
« The U.S. government’s relentless push for biofuel expansion will mean greater control and profit for big oil and agribusiness cartels, » said John Kinsman, President of Family Farm Defenders. « The RFS mandate provides little benefit to family farmers or rural communities, either at home or abroad. »
« The rush to convert land from food to fuel crops is a big step in the wrong direction, » said Nikhil Aziz, Executive Director of Grassroots International. « We’ve already seen in the first wave that, in addition to severe environmental damage and labor rights violations, pursuing the industrial scale biofuel model destroys local communities and ways of life that, once gone, can never be brought back. »
« Large scale, intensive biofuel production is a false solution to climate change, » said Andrea Samulon of Rainforest Action Network. « The RFS mandate for increased biofuel production will hasten the destruction of pristine forests and threaten food security in countries like Indonesia and Brazil. »
A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about the costs and benefits of biofuels is available here.
A copy of the letter, which was sent today to Congress by the Borneo Project, Family Farm Defenders, Food and Water Watch, Food First, Friends of the Earth, the Global Justice Ecology Project, Grassroots International, the Institute for Social Ecology, Rainforest Action Network, and the Student Trade Justice Campaign, is available here.
For more information contact:
Friends of the Earth