WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University agricultural
economist Chris Hurt will testify Wednesday, July 24, in Washington before a
congressional panel considering whether law requiring production of biofuels
should be altered to meet changing conditions.
Hurt will explain how the Energy Independence and Security
Act of 2007 has been a boon to crop producers, such as corn growers, but also
has helped to drive prices for animal feed and food for people higher by
requiring a significant portion of the crops go to the production of ethanol.
“This law has had some pretty large impacts on the demand
for grains,” he said. “In this case, it was a very rapid increase in demand
mandated by law.”
Hurt will give his testimony to a panel of the House Energy
and Commerce Committee that is assessing the effectiveness of the Renewable Fuel
Standard. The public hearing of the Energy and Power Subcommittee will be at
1:30 p.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The subcommittee also is hearing testimony from
representatives of various industries both supporting and opposing the
The Renewable Fuel Standard, a 2005 provision of the Energy
Policy Act, sets targets and timetables for certain biofuels to be added to the
nation’s transportation fuel supply.
It was expanded under the Energy Independence and Security
Act two years later, setting requirements that 16.55 billion gallons of biofuels
be produced in 2013 and 36 billion by 2022.
Hurt estimates that 38 percent of the 2013 corn crop will go
toward ethanol production. To meet the federally mandated production levels,
U.S. agriculture put more acreage into growing corn, and the biofuels industry
built the necessary production plants to process it into ethanol, he
“That was not done without some costs,” he explained.
Shifting large amounts of acreage into corn at a time
between 2005 and 2010 when the Chinese also were drastically increasing their
purchases of soybeans meant less acreage for crops other than corn or
“If the Congress saw what was developing with the Chinese
back then, it might not have ramped up the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements
so rapidly,” the economist said.
Among the congressional subcommittee’s considerations must
be how agriculture will meet mandated production levels of ethanol in view of
the slow pace in the development of cellulosic biofuels, such as those from
miscanthus or crop and forest residue, Hurt said.
He noted that a requirement for 1 billion gallons of
cellulosic biofuels to be produced this year has been lowered to only 14 million
gallons, in line with actual production. Still, a requirement of 16 billion
gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2022 remains in the RFS mandate.
“That is not likely to happen,” Hurt said. “The Renewable
Fuel Standard is one of the most important laws that has been driving U.S.
agriculture. Thus, any changes to that law could have large impacts on the
future of the sector.”