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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ought to be promoting advanced biofuels that don't contribute to food price inflation or create new environmental concerns, said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), and Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.) yesterday in a letter co-signed by 58 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"This year, the U.S. will divert nearly one-third of our total corn production to make ethanol," said Moran. "It's contributing directly to record corn prices -- spiking even higher this week due to the tragic flooding in Iowa. The unprecedented price of corn is having a ripple effect on food prices directly impacting consumers at the grocery store, not to mention the poor and starving in the third world. We call on the EPA to redouble its efforts to rapidly transition away from biofuels that draw down our food supply towards newer, more sustainable energy sources."
The timing of the letter coincides with EPA's continued re-evaluation of the effect of Renewable Fuel Standard on the economy and environment.
The letter points out that food price inflation in the U.S. is now rising at twice the overall rate of inflation, while global food prices have almost doubled in the past three years. The bipartisan group notes that there are several factors driving food costs up, and stresses the need to find sources for biofuel production that "do not divert food and feed from domestic and international supplies."
Under current policies, 30 percent to 35 percent of all U.S. corn will be diverted for ethanol production in 2008. The Representatives that the diversion of food for fuel production is contributing to higher food prices and will have a limited ability to lower U.S. gasoline consumption, displacing "only 4 percent of America's gasoline supplies this year."
Since diverting food for fuel production doesn't considerably reduce gasoline consumption, the politicians called for the development of cellulosic biofuels, contending that the advanced fuels could "displace one-third or more of domestic gasoline supplies, could significantly reduce the price of gasoline, and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels by 80 percent or more."
"Our current ethanol policies not only are rife with unintended consequences, they [also] have not helped ease our growing fuel demands," said Davis. "The transition to cellulosic ethanol is a common-sense, necessary step which must begin as soon as possible."