The Environmental Protection Agency's finding issued Friday that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare has raised some concerns, the biggest of which that it opens the door for the agency to mandate a reduction in carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.
During a conference call with reporters this week Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed out a court decision required EPA to make a determination about the impact and effect of greenhouse gasses on health. And as the U.S. transitions to an economy focused on clean energy, jobs and opportunities Vilsack says he is convinced agriculture can play a role and be a great benefactor.
"I think the capacity to use our land, creates tremendous opportunities to offset greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors of the economy," Vilsack said. "As Congress begins debate on this very critical issue my hope is that the agriculture offset opportunity is the focus of provisions in the law, because I think it can be anywhere from 20 to 25% of the solution."
Vilsack said he would continue to advocate that agriculture play an important and significant role in reducing greenhouse gas impacts and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
During the conference Vilsack also addressed the ethanol industry’s concerns about how the EPA might utilize indirect land use calculations when making new renewable fuels standard rules.
"The calculation of indirect land use is obviously a very complicated one and requires I think a good deal of study and review," Vilsack said. "So I would imagine that regardless of what the EPA initially proposes that we will probably see some form of study suggested to make sure their proposal is on the right track. Our concern is that whatever calculations, if any are used, are used in a way that accurately reflects the contribution biofuels will make to reducing greenhouse gasses in our climate change efforts."
The indirect land use model being used by the California Air Resources Board in regards to a proposed low carbon fuel standard, increases the carbon score for biofuels by 40% or more because it assumes land currently not in crop production will need to be shifted to growing crops as ethanol production expands. Groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association and Renewable Fuels Association have all argued that is unfair and not accurate. CARB is meeting Thursday and Friday to make a decision on the proposed standard.