5 Jan 2008, 1:42pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Virginia Rep on the Energy Act of 07

Last December 6th US Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia delivered a stern lecture to the Tax and Spend Dem Party regarding the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It seems that the Act is full of bizarre language, much of which may sound perfectly PC to the casual observer, but actually thrusts knives into the back of millions upon millions of Americans.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is destined to do none of those things, but instead will further energy dependence and insecurity, as well as costing a national arm and leg. Particularly egregious is the Statutory Demand that fuels on Federal lands be excluded from bio-energy production, as if burning down millions of acres of America’s forests is preferable to saving forests by disposing of the excess fuels in a safe and productive manner.

Evidently, that is exactly what the Donkey Party wants: raging infernos that catastrophically destroy your heritage environment and mine. Burn, baby, burn, in the most destructive way possible.

The honorable Bob Goodlatte of Virginia is one rational thinker who had the gumption to stand up and call them on it last month. Here is the full text of Rep. Goodlatte’s House Floor remarks of Dec. 6th:

Statement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte
Revision and extension of Floor Statement on H.R. 6
Originally submitted on December 6, 2007

I rise today in opposition to this reckless energy policy, which will do absolutely nothing to make us energy independent, or lower energy costs. This bill sets us on a dangerous path and ties our hands in a regulatory mess to ensure that we cannot produce domestic energy.

Like my colleagues, I believe we should find solutions to address the growing demand for energy. The biggest concern facing the farmers and ranchers of this country are increased input costs from higher fuel prices and fertilizer. The U.S. fertilizer industry relies upon natural gas as the fundamental feedstock for the production of nitrogen fertilizer. The rest of the U.S. farm sector also depends on significant amounts of natural gas for food processing, irrigation, crop drying, heating farm buildings and homes, the production of crop protection chemicals, and, let’s not forget, ethanol biofuel production. In addition to the farm sector, the forest products industry relies more on natural gas than any other fossil fuel and energy amounts to the third largest manufacturing cost for the industry.

Unbelievably, this legislation contains no new energy supplies in it and does nothing to relieve the burdens of increased costs on producers who provide the food and fiber for American consumers. It seems that the Majority’s plan to move toward energy independence includes limiting domestic energy production and imposing new government mandates that will prove to be costly and burdensome to the American people.

This legislation would dramatically expand the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) by increasing it to 36 billion gallons by 2022. This initiative is extremely ambitious and could be achieved by tapping all sectors of agriculture including plant and wood waste, vegetable oil, and animal fat and waste which would result in the production of 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol. While I am in favor of finding new markets for agriculture products, what good is finding new markets for agriculture commodities when the cost of production is too much for our farmers and ranchers?

We should develop a policy that is technology neutral and allows the market to develop new sources of renewable energy. The RFS provisions create an unrealistic mandate for advanced biofuels technology that doesn’t yet exist and creates hurdles for the development of second generation biofuels by placing restrictions on alternative fuels, renewable fuel plant production, and, most important, limits the harvesting of our homegrown feedstocks. These restrictions will undoubtedly lead to a consumer tax to help bridge the gap in production that will occur if this policy is put into place.

Even with the advancement of cellulosic ethanol, the expansion of the RFS would still require 15 billion gallons of renewable fuel to come from the only current commercially available option: grain ethanol.

Last year, 20 percent of the U.S. corn crop was used for ethanol production and that amount is expected to rise significantly over the next few years. With feed stocks meeting most of our renewable fuel initiatives, the livestock sector is facing significantly higher feed costs. Corn and soybeans’ most valuable market has always been, and will continue to be, the livestock producers. We must ensure that there are not unintended economic distortions to either grain or livestock producers as a result of these sectors prospering from other markets.

The benefits of reduced reliance on foreign energy sources, stable energy prices, and new markets for agricultural products should not be replaced with a risk of adding even more increased input costs for livestock producers and creating even higher food prices for consumers.

In addition to the above mentioned concerns, I’m also deeply disappointed that the Renewable Fuels Standard would essentially shut out one of the largest potential sources of feedstock for renewable fuel, forest biomass. In total, forests have the potential to sustainably produce 370 million tons of biomass for energy every year. This is approximately two and one-half times the amount of forest biomass we currently consume in traditional forest products. This amount of forest biomass could produce 24 billion gallons of ethanol per year, according to very conservative estimates. This could supplement, not replace, existing forest products markets.

Unfortunately, Hr 6 would not allow forest biomass grown on public lands to be used to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard, unless the biomass was removed near buildings, public infrastructure, or areas where people inhabit regularly. This greatly reduces the opportunity for any substantial market in the energy sector for the byproducts of hazardous fuels reduction. These markets could help lower the costs of reducing wildfire risks and improving forest health on public lands. With the restrictions in HR 6, very little of these byproducts could be used to meet the Standard. Currently, we have serious issues in our public forests, with over 90 million acres at risk of wildfire, insects, and diseases. HR 6 would do nothing to help address these concerns.

Additionally, HR 6 stipulates that, with respect to private forests, only forest biomass removed from “tree plantations” or biomass that is considered slash or brush can be used to meet the renewable fuel standard. It would also exclude any biomass taken from old growth forests, forests in the later stages of development, or forests that are considered “ecological communities” as defined by State Natural Heritage Programs.

With these restrictions, this Renewable Fuels Standard discourages efforts to reduce wildfire risk, control insects and disease in forests, improve forest health and wildlife habitat, and create market opportunities for family forest owners. There is also a tremendous opportunity to utilize existing forest products industry infrastructure to produce renewable fuels. HR 6 would do little to encourage that development.

A renewable fuels producer would likely look at all these restrictions on forest biomass and decide not to bother with forestry materials. If we are to come anywhere close to meeting the RFS mandates in HR 6, we must have a substantial amount of forest biomass as a feedstock. I’m deeply concerned that we will not be able to meet these mandates with the restrictions in HR 6 on the use of forest biomass.

This energy policy, set in place by the Democrat Majority, exemplifies the Democrat motto through and through: tax and spend. This bill imposes $21 billion in tax increases. The other side will tell you that these tax increases will not affect the average hard-working American, only the “big, evil oil companies.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. The taxes contained in this bill will impede new domestic oil and gas production, will discourage investment in new refinery capacity, and will make it more expensive for domestic energy companies to operate in the U.S. than their foreign competitors, making the price at the pump rise even higher.

Let’s make no mistake: an increased tax doesn’t just hurt energy companies, it hurts every American—individual, farm, or company—that consumes energy. Increased taxes on energy companies are passed to consumers. Every American will see these increased costs on their energy bill. This body shouldn’t pass legislation that further raises energy prices for consumers.

What is even more disturbing is that these increased costs will be felt by some of our nation’s most poor. On average, the nation’s working poor spends approximately 13 to 30 percent of their yearly income on energy costs. This average is already too high, and sadly this legislation will only dramatically increase the amount of money these workers will have to spend on energy costs. I have heard those on the other side of the aisle say that we must all shoulder the cost to produce clean energy. Well, the costs of the clean energy in the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) alone, as estimated by just one of Virginia’s many electric utilities, will increase $200 million for its retail customers. By shifting to renewable energy sources, that are not as available or as cost effective as traditional sources, we will see a rise in energy prices across the board and this will be hardest felt by working people who cannot afford to shoulder any more costs.

While this bill is said to be focused on new energy technologies, it fails to address some of our most promising domestic alternative and renewable energy supplies that could be cost effective for American consumers. Coal is one of our nation’s most abundant resources, yet the development of Coal-to-Liquid technologies is ignored in this bill. Furthermore, this legislation does nothing to encourage the construction of new nuclear facilities.

Proponents of this legislation will tout how green this bill is; however, if my colleagues really want to promote green energy they should encourage the production of more nuclear sites which provide CO2 emission-free energy. The rest of the world is far out-pacing the U.S. in its commitment to clean nuclear energy. We generate only 20 percent of our energy from this clean energy, when other countries can generate about 80 percent of their electricity needs through nuclear. It is a travesty that in over 1,000 pages this legislation does not once mention or encourage the construction of clean and reliable nuclear plants. Nuclear energy is the most reliable and advanced of any renewable energy technology, and if we are serious about encouraging CO2-free energy use, we must support nuclear energy.

This legislation does nothing to address the energy concerns of our country; and it does nothing to relieve agricultural producers of their increasing input costs. This legislation only makes the situation worse and it is the product of a flawed process that does not have bipartisan support!

This bill is a dangerous policy for our country. If we really want to make our country energy independent, this Congress must pass an energy bill that contains energy. This bill does not. I urge my colleagues to reject this awful bill, let’s start over, and work to find real solutions to the energy needs of our nation.



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