Many are familiar with our current administration’s enthusiasm for alternative fuels, especially those curtailing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, recent federal action currently proves too swift to make the switch to renewable energy.

On June 26th, H.R. 2454 (Waxman-Markey) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a narrow 219-212 vote. The bill will establish a combined efficiency and renewable electricity standard that requires utilities to supply an increasing percentage of their demand from a combination of energy efficiency savings and renewable energy. The day before voting, U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, sponsors of the proposed cap-and-trade bill, hammered out an agreement addressing several issues of interest to agriculture, but still leaving us with a number of other major concerns.

The Peterson amendment includes provisions for agricultural offset programs in Waxman-Markey. In other words, farmers may qualify for carbon payments for practices like no-till. In addition, USDA will administer agricultural offset programs. Peterson and the bill sponsors also negotiated a solution to the problem of including indirect land use changes in calculating the lifecycle carbon emissions for corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel.

However, significant concerns regarding the bill linger. A recent action request from the Illinois Farm Bureau states the following:

These increased costs will just be passed along until they reach the consumer. As we currently receive over half of our electricity from coal, we cannot afford to cut our use of fossil fuels without a replacement. With this bill looming on the horizon, we may soon be unable to afford a standard of life we once had, while the GHG emissions still exist. iBi