US climate change bill comes under wider attack

11 June 2009 22:59  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The 900-page energy and climate change bill appeared to be facing still more opposition in Congress on Thursday as more than 100 US agriculture groups joined manufacturers in challenging the measure.

The climate control bill, HR-2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Act), is meant to shift US energy consumption to non-carbon and renewable sources by capping and taxing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by industrial and transportation use of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas.

Although the measure’s carbon emissions restrictions would not apply to the US agriculture sector, a broad alliance of farm and livestock growers warned in a hearing on Thursday that anticipated increases in energy and fuel costs resulting from the climate bill would seriously undermine American agriculture.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), told a House Agriculture Committee hearing that “any climate change legislation will impose additional costs on all sectors of the economy and will result in higher fuel, fertilizer and energy costs to farmers and ranchers”.

“Cost increases incurred by utilities and other providers resulting from climate change [and] energy legislation will ultimately be borne by consumers, including farmers and ranchers,” Stallman said in his testimony.

Citing cost projections made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the climate bill, Stallman said that the agency’s forecast for rising natural gas prices due to the legislation “could threaten the remaining fertilizer manufacturing facilities in the US”.

“This would make us even more dependent on foreign fertilizer imports,” he said.  Earlier natgas price increases have forced shutdown of most US-based ammonia fertilizer production.

Stallman said that “all the clamour and excitement over this issue has focused on claims of upcoming catastrophic events - rising sea levels, horrific weather disasters, furious hurricanes, melting polar ice, demise of certain species and migration of people”.

“But no one can tell if the bill will actually fix those problems,” Stallman said.  “So before we rush to impose constraints on our economy that may or may not work, there ought to be some way of measuring whether the benefits of the bill at least roughly equal the costs.”

Stallman was among several agricultural groups to voice opposition to the bill, including 55 farm and food organisations of the Agriculture Energy Alliance and 46 agriculture trade representatives that had expressed opposition earlier.

US chemical producers, iron and steel makers, aluminium manufacturers and forestry interests have long opposed the bill, opposition that won some concessions in the measure as approved last month by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (Democrat-Minnesota) was quoted in The Hill newspaper on Thursday as saying that more Democrats on his committee are opposed to the bill than support it.

Many House Democrats and Republicans represent rural and farm districts in the US south, midwest and west where, according to farm interests’ testimony, the climate bill is unpopular.

US bio-ethanol producers also oppose the climate measure as drafted because under proposed EPA rules, corn-based ethanol would not qualify as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.

Democrat leadership in the House had wanted the climate bill to be wrapped up by 19 June - the end of next week - but that looks increasingly unlikely.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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