A duo of strange bedfellows introduced legislation Thursday that would significantly reform — and reduce in scope — the renewable fuel standard, a mandate that requires increasingly large amounts of biofuels to be blended with gasoline.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would eliminate the corn-ethanol portion of the RFS but retain the smaller mandates that require volumes of advanced biofuels not derived from feedstock, such as cellulosic. Feinstein and Coburn have worked together in the past on eliminating subsidies for the corn-ethanol industry.
In a rarity for energy policy, this legislation is attracting support right out of the gate from both sides of the aisle. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., are also cosponsors.
Another unlikely pair — Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and David Vitter, R-La. — is working on separate legislation that also seeks to keep the advanced-biofuels goals of the program intact while removing altogether or reducing the corn-ethanol part. Timing on this legislation is unclear, a spokesperson for Cardin said Wednesday.
The RFS, enacted in 2005 and strengthened significantly in 2007, requires refiners to blend 16.55 billion gallons of biofuels in 2013. Most of that — 13 billion — will be corn ethanol. The mandate has come under intense scrutiny from a diverse group of stakeholders, ranging from the oil and refining industries, to livestock and food groups, to environmentalists.
After dithering on the issue for much of this year, the Senate held its first hearing on the mandate Wednesday, in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., indicated she won’t support major reform to the policy. “As chairman of this committee, and I have the gavel for now, I’m not going to let us reverse course…. I’m just not,” she said.
“No program is perfect, that’s for sure, whatever it is; even in the private sector, no new product is perfect and no new marketing strategy is perfect at first. So we’ve got to work together, and I’m willing to do that. But I just think, overall, let’s not turn our back on a way to make sure we can become more energy independent and have a better environment in the long run,” Boxer added.
Meanwhile, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., have been jointly working on the RFS since March.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."