September 1, 2009
Statement of Senator Tom Harkin at the Hearing on Expanding the Role of Biofuels for America
Sioux City, IA – “Good afternoon, it’s great to be here in Sioux City, right in the heartland agricultural and rural America, and in a region blessed with leaders and innovators in new biofuels technologies. I’m especially glad to hold this hearing with my colleague, Senator John Thune. He is a capable and valued member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“Rural America is rapidly increasing the production of renewable energy, including biofuels. And biofuels production represents a bright spot in our rural economies. Equally important, producing and using more biofuels are among our most important strategies for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Congress recognizes this. Last year our country produced over nine billion gallons of ethanol, and that reduced oil imports by 321 million barrels. This year we will produce 10 billion gallons of ethanol. That’s quite a success compared to the 175 million gallons just 30 years ago. Under the Renewable Fuel Standard that we passed in 2007 our nation is on exactly the kind of expansion trajectory we need – growing to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels use a year by 2022.
“The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, or farm bill, we passed last year will boost and maintain that trajectory in many ways. Building on our base of corn ethanol, the new farm bill has payments, grants, and loan guarantees to help farmers and biorefineries develop advanced biofuels, grow biomass crops, process them and market biofuels. It does so with grants and loan guarantees, payments for biomass crops, payments to farmers to begin to grow energy crops, and payments for feedstock harvesting and delivery to user facilities.
“I have introduced two pieces of legislation in the new Congress aimed at improving distribution and marketing for biofuels. The first authorizes loan guarantees for renewable biofuels pipelines to provide critical infrastructure for transporting these fuels from the Midwest to population centers east and west. I am pleased Senator Thune is a co-sponsor of that bill.
“The second bill would require 90 percent of vehicles manufactured in the U.S. to be flex fuel by the year 2013. The bill also would require increasing numbers of blender pumps – pumps that can dispense ethanol blends ranging from 0 percent to 85 percent (E85) -- and authorize grants to support their installation.
“Another important action for expanding biofuels markets is relief from the blend wall. I want to thank Growth Energy and all of the biofuels firms that supported their application to EPA for a waiver to allow E15 to be used in all gasoline-fueled vehicles, and I assure you that I am in full support of that application.
“Let me also mention that, recently, Senator Thune and I sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to refrain from including international indirect land use changes in the rulemaking for the renewable fuel standard. While I think we can all agree that we need to make sure our expansion of biofuels doesn’t come at the expense of our environment or climate, we clearly don’t have the data or analytic tools to link deforestation overseas to biofuels production here in the Midwest with any credibility.
“Whenever I travel across Iowa, I am very encouraged to see so many wind power turbines generating clean electricity without importing or burning fossil fuels. Iowa’s aggressive expansion into biofuels and windpower is leading the way for the entire nation into a new era of clean, renewable, domestically produced energy. I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to accelerate this transformation.
“To fulfill the potential of renewable energy and biofuels, we must understand the obstacles and the challenges and devise practical solutions. That is why we are holding this hearing today: to let us explore the current situation, the prospects from promising research and trials, market barriers and opportunities, and finally the impact on the farm level.
“Senator Thune, the emerging biofuels industry is enormously important not just to Iowa and South Dakota, but to the entire nation. I look forward to our continuing collaboration in the Senate to support the growth of this valuable industry.”