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June 2009 Archive for Top of Mind

RSS By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer

Jeanne, Top Producer Editor, grew up on a beef cattle operation in Southwest Missouri and now writes from the heart of corn country in Eastern Iowa.

The Best Deal Ag Will Get

Jun 30, 2009
I have written about carbon trading and agricultural offsets for several years now, so I am not completely surprised by the House vote on Friday to pass the nation’s first carbon emissions legislation.
Since global warming has moved beyond speculation to hardball economics, entire nations and industries are seeking to help slow, stop and reverse greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed on Friday will require U.S. sources to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
What I am surprised about is the agriculture industry’s indignation and opposition to the legislation. Years ago, Kansas State University carbon expert Chuck Rice told me the handwriting was on the wall for some sort of cap on carbon emissions. “It’s critical that agriculture be involved in the discussion so that farmers can participate in a carbon market,” he said.
Well, this bill actually allows farmers the ability to fully participate in a carbon offset program – in other words, to get paid for farm activities that help reduce GHG emissions.

For those of us following climate legislation, this is a real boon for agriculture. Farmers might actually have a seat at the carbon offset table!
Better yet for agriculture, this legislation moves the oversight of carbon-reduction efforts by farmers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Department of Agriculture. Can you imagine the EPA regulating how you practice your no-till to keep carbon in the soil, or how you manage manure to reduce methane gases released into the atmosphere? The regulations would not likely be based in the reality of production agriculture.
This is the best deal that agriculture could have gotten out of the House,” says Laura Sands, a partner at environmental consulting firm The Clark Group and a member of the Ag Carbon Market Working Group.
“In the end, if Congress doesn’t enact some type of greenhouse gas emissions policy, we’ve received a clear message that EPA will. Agriculture will fair much better through a cap-and-trade policy than regulation by EPA,” she adds.

The Profitable Kind of Energy

Jun 23, 2009
House leaders plan to vote Friday on a climate change bill that would set up a complex cap-and-trade to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
President Obama said yesterday in a press conference that incentives in the bill to curb GHG emissions “will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.”
In turn, President Obama hopes that profitability will lead to development of new technologies that lead to new industries that create millions of new jobs (Isn’t that what the $800 billion stimulus package was supposed to do?).
Most House Democrats are on board with the legislation, but House Republicans have criticized what they call “cap-and-TAX” legislation, saying it will sharply raise energy costs for consumers and send jobs overseas.
One major Democratic dissenter is House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn), who wants to change the rules for carbon credits that farmers may receive for practicing no-till or other conservation practices on their farms that keep carbon dioxide sunk down in the soil. Peterson simply wants the authority for evaluating offsets moved from the EPA to the USDA, a position supported by nearly everyone in agriculture.
Environmentalists, however, fear that USDA might use lax standards for determining carbon offsets on farms.
Given EPA’s track record with regulating agriculture industry, I would argue that if the Obama Administration truly wants “the profitable kind of energy”, the authority for evaluating agricultural offsets must be taken out of the hands of environmentalists.
Stay tuned….

Mapping Ethanol's Footprint

Jun 02, 2009
Ever wondered where all the E85 pumps are located across the country? Or how close those pumps are to the biorefineries that produce the ethanol?
Go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to view an interactive map that answers those questions.

Using data provided in part by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), this new map plots the location every E85 station and ethanol biorefinery across the country (as well as under construction facilities). NREL’s map also includes locations for propane, hydrogen, and other alternative fueling facilities across the country. 

This map clearly shows that ethanol is expanding beyond the traditional markets of the Midwest.
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