Rural resistance has helped slow the development of renewable energy. It doesn't have to be that way. For the President's green-energy plans to succeed, he needs to reach out to the rural leaders who are ready to act on climate change.
President Barack Obama made urgent calls for new steps to address climate change in his State of the Union address yesterday, “for the sake of our children and our future.” While the focus was on renewable energy, he missed an opportunity to talk about the essential ingredient for addressing climate change: the support of rural communities.
Due to the structure of our legislative system, representatives from rural America—and their constituents—have played a disproportionate role in derailing federal climate action over the last several years. Rural resistance is due, in large part, to the complete neglect of this constituency by U.S. climate policymakers and activists, which allowed climate issues in rural America to be defined primarily by the fossil fuel industry and its surrogates.
Without positive, pro-rural voices, or proposals on the table that emphasize the opportunities, climate change deniers have been able to—correctly—focus on the additional burdens that new regulation or taxation would bring to parts of the country that already have lower incomes and higher energy costs than cities.
Encouragingly, some rural perceptions about climate change are changing. Rural people are already experiencing and responding to the climate crisis in myriad ways. One of the most severe droughts in U.S. history is still unfolding, forcing farmers and ranchers across the country to rethink crop and livestock production systems.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has long prided itself as being on the cutting edge of identifying and addressing global issues that affect our daily lives. We analyze complex challenges, bring people together, and work to shift power in our quest for a more democratic, sustainable and just world.
Our ever-vigilant policy analysts report back that there is but one unifying forum recognized around the world for sharing ideas and vision: the cat video.
I invite you to enjoy IATP’s latest production, Chiko, Le Chat Politique.
Please share this important message with your friends. And give now at www.iatp.org/gtmd12.
Thanks to a generous friend of Chiko the cat, all gifts today will be matched dollar for dollar up to $8,000.
Thank you for participating in Give to the Max. Your support makes our work possible. To learn more, go to www.iatp.org/gtmd12.
Jim Harkness, President
The fine print: No cats were harmed in the filming of this video, unless you count licking a McDonald’s cheeseburger. With special thanks to Henri, Le Chat Noir.
What does it take to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fulfill their duty to protect public health? More than a letter from two members of Congress, apparently.
FDA finally responded to a letter sent by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Congress’ only microbiologist, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) last May. Following on the heels of the release of IATP’s Bugs in the System report, the letter asked what FDA was doing to control the unapproved, and possibly illegal, marketing of antibiotics by animal drug companies for use in ethanol production.
As IATP documented in our report, antibiotics are widely used in ethanol production to control bacterial contamination, although non-antibiotic alternatives are also effective and readily available on the market. Our investigation showed that the agency considers antibiotics used in ethanol production to be “food additives.” Under federal code, food additives must be FDA approved before they can be lawfully marketed. None of the antibiotics used in ethanol production—including the human drugs penicillin and erythromycin, and human-drug analogues tylosin and virginiamycin—have been so approved, yet the FDA has refused to regulate their marketing and use.
IATP has issued a press statement applauding Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) for writing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and calling for action on antibiotics in ethanol production.
Our latest investigation, Bugs in the System: How the FDA Fails to Regulate Antibiotics in Ethanol Production, is heavily cited in their letter, and it's encouraging to see them addressing the FDA's apparent neglect of their responsibilities. Check out the press statement, posted below, or read up on the IATP investigation that made it happen. Hopefully the FDA will recognize its responsibility and take the actions necessary to correct the situation. Get involved in the fight against antibiotic resistance by signing IATP's latest petition.
Over the last three years, IATP has written numerous reports and blogs about why antibiotic use in ethanol production is unwise and unnecessary. The antibiotics that ethanol producers use to control bacteria during production end up in a co-product called distillers grains (DGS), which are sold as livestock feed. We’ve argued that feeding livestock this additional, non-therapeutic antibiotic dose may contribute to antibiotic resistance, a problem that poses huge threats to public health. We’ve also argued that antibiotic use in ethanol production is unnecessary—effective, cost-competitive alternatives are readily available and widely used by the industry, but our common-good appeals haven’t stopped drug companies from unlawfully selling antibiotics to ethanol producers, or producers from using them.
That might now change.
Today, we’re releasing the results of an investigation into the FDA’s failure to regulate antibiotic sales to the ethanol industry. For at least the last five years, drug companies have been marketing unapproved antibiotics to ethanol producers, a practice, according to the FDA, that is prohibited by federal code. The FDA knows about it, but has done nothing. Drug companies know too, but continue to market these antibiotics.
There is a lot to talk about following last Friday’s release of Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s draft Farm Bill, but hardly any time to talk about it. The bill is scheduled for mark-up tomorrow. Yes, that’s April 25th. After the full mark-up, the Committee bill will move to the Senate floor for debate, probably sometime in May. We’ll have time, then, to do some thorough analysis. Today, however, we’ll try to give you a couple of bites to chew on, with accompanying actions to take. Here’s the scoop on important energy title programs.
The Senate Ag Committee draft of the 2012 Farm Bill includes zero mandatory funding for the Farm Bill Energy Title, which includes important programs that promote on-farm energy efficiency and perennial-based renewable energy. Over the last month, we’ve been working with many other agriculture, energy, and environmental groups to let Congress know how important these programs are. But without mandatory funding, these programs will be left virtually dead.
How much do we need these programs? Take the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), for example. In 2011 alone, REAP saved or created almost 7,000 jobs; reduced greenhouse gases by almost 2 million metric tons; saved the equivalent of over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity; and generated $465 million of investments in our communities.
In January of 1969 the Santa Barbara Channel was the site of an oil well blowout that still ranks today as the third-largest oil spill in U.S. waters, after the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound. Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson went to Santa Barbara to see what happened when an estimated 100,000 gallons of crude oil washed up on the coast of California killing sea life and birds, and destroying the shoreline. His anger at the environmental damage from off-shore oil drilling led Senator Nelson, along with activists Dennis Hayes and John Gardner, to found the first Earth Day in 1970.
Earth Day launched a national environmental movement that quickly achieved significant regulatory and policy goals. By December of 1970, President Nixon was calling for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The long hard work of so many environmental heroes like Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, was taking hold. Teach-ins were happening at campuses across the country. A new generation was defining environmentalism.
As Earth Day 2012 approaches, we are left looking back at a 40-year battle to protect the earth from corporate pillage and abuse. Major off-shore oil spills have occurred every 20 years since then, with the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and Deepwater Horizon in 2010. A National Geographic map of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico shows a mass of red dots that looks like an open wound; there are literally thousands of wells in the Gulf.
Yesterday our Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken introduced a bill in the Senate to protect energy programs in the Farm Bill that are critically important for rural communities. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa led the bill’s introduction, and Sen. Kent Conrad from North Dakota was also a co-sponsor.
This bill sets the stage for the 2012 Farm Bill Energy Title and draws a line in the sand to make sure that programs like the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) don’t lose their funding. These programs have helped farmers plant more perennial crops and increase energy efficiency on the farm. Without them, farmers would have a harder time getting over some of the financial hurdles they encounter when getting started making environmental and energy improvements on the farm.
We would like to see the entire Minnesota congressional delegation show similar support and leadership in the House, and we are working together with several otherMinnesota groups to encourage them to do so. See a sample of the letter we sent to all of our federal legislators.
When land previously used for producing food is transformed into land for producing ethanol, what impact does its change have on the environment and global food supply? Does the net difference in food production spur development in other parts of the world—often meaning deforestation to make way for increased acreage—that ultimately increases global greenhouse gas emissions? If so, what does this say about the sustainability of ethanol production?
This concept, known as indirect land use change (ILUC), has ignited debate among ethanol producers and environmental advocates. In a new essay, released today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), author Julia Olmstead looks at the current state of the indirect land use change (ILUC) debate and what parties on both sides of the debate can stand to learn.
In its purest form, green chemistry is nothing short of fine art: creating chemicals for use in products and processes that are just as effective as their traditional—and often toxic or resource intensive—counterparts, but safer, cost neutral, environmentally benign and a source of economic boon for everyone involved. Sounds like common sense, and indeed, this was the sentiment of many at yesterday’s Minnesota Green Chemistry Conference, co-hosted by IATP and the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.
The day opened with Senator Al Franken delivering a video welcome from Washington, D.C., in which he declared Minnesota a natural leader in green chemistry due to its strong university system—in fact, the University of Minnesota is one of few with a dedicated green chemistry course—and long history of environmental stewardship. He warned, however, that to remain a leader, Minnesota will need to make further investments to expand educational programs to train the next generation of green chemists as well as mid-career training for professionals already in the field.