Republican Senators Join Assault on Ethanol

Harkin urges EPA to uphold ethanol standards.

Published on: May 6, 2008

Two dozen Republican senators have jumped into the fray surrounding ethanol, writing to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson requesting the waiving of the Renewable Fuels Standard. They claim it is responsible for the increase in food prices despite several studies and economists that show other factors as the major culprit for rising food prices. This comes on the heels of requests by Texas and Connecticut for waiver of ethanol blending requirements.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says that rising food prices are a concern around the globe, but the attempt to persuade the EPA to halt ethanol is without merit.

"To single out increased biofuels production and use in the United States, European Union and other countries as the chief cause of higher world food prices is an over-simplification of the problem," says Harkin. "Numerous factors are contributing to this increase in prices: a strong demand for food imports in Asian countries such as China and India, abetted by the weak U.S. dollar, high energy costs, and poor harvests over the last few years in key producing countries such as Australia and the European Union."

Other Republican senators also spoke out against the move. Senator John Thune, R-S.D., called the effort misguided and that backtracking on the energy policy that was set forth in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 would be a mistake.

"It's very convenient right now to make ethanol the whipping boy for food prices when in fact oil prices have a lot more to do with the high price of food than the price of corn does," Thune says. "What you're seeing I think is an attempt here to use this, it's very fashionable right now to attack ethanol and everyone seems to be piling on; but if you look at the facts, the facts tell a very different story."

Thune says it's important to respond to this attempt, and he and Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are working together to get a message out there to counter what is being said in this letter.