What: All Issues : Environment : Renewable Energy : Advanced Fuels Research and Development Act (H.R. 547)/Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) amendment to require the EPA to consider strategies to minimize emissions that may be released when biofuels are blended, stored and transported (2007 house Roll Call 81)
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Advanced Fuels Research and Development Act (H.R. 547)/Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) amendment to require the EPA to consider strategies to minimize emissions that may be released when biofuels are blended, stored and transported
house Roll Call 81     Feb 08, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on an amendment to legislation that would authorize $10 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency to research how to make alternative fuels more compatible with the nations existing petroleum-based fuel infrastructure. The amendment would require the EPA to consider the effect on emissions for any new technology to facilitate the implementation of biofuels.

Biofuels such as ethanol (usually made of corn) are regarded by many in Congress as a cleaner-burning alternative to fossil fuels. This is not a universally accepted notion, however, as it takes as many as seven barrels of petroleum in the form of fertilizer and other inputs to create eight barrels of ethanol, according to the Cato Institute. And the Sierra Club maintains that ethanol is actually worse than gasoline in producing smog.

The premise of this legislation was that biofuels such as ethanol are desirable alternatives to fossil fuels, but because they can corrode, contaminate or clog the infrastructure designed for petroleum products, the federal government should help retailers make the transition. The bill would instruct the EPA to investigate additives and other technologies to ease such issues. The legislation would also direct the agency to develop a way to test the sulfur content of low-sulfur diesel fuel at fuel stations to make sure it complies with the needs of new low-sulfur diesel engines.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) sought to amend the bill to ensure that the EPA considers the impact on emissions when developing additives and technologies to ease the way for biofuels. More specifically, her amendment would require the EPA to consider the emissions occurring as the result of evaporation and exchange with the air while the fuel is held in storage tanks or transferred on and off tanker trucks.

Eshoo's amendment is what as known as a second-degree amendment, which means that was an amendment to an amendment. In this case, Eshoo sought to amend an amendment put forth by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) that would require the EPA, as part of its research and development program, to consider strategies to minimize emissions as the result of the combustion of additives to biofuels.

Eshoo pointed out that fuels containing ethanol actually emit more volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or air pollutants than conventional gasoline when burned. She said her amendment went further than Burgess' because it took into account both the burning as well as transport and storage of biofuels.

Burgess countered that his amendment was actually stronger because it addressed the "mobile sources, as well as the static sources, that may be a source of emissions." By mobile sources he was referring to the airborne particulates created by the burning of the fuel, and static sources are the result of storage and transport.

He also said he would have supported Eshoo's amendment if it was offered as a stand-alone amendment and was not instead a second-degree amendment in the nature of a substitute to his. (Substitute amendments essentially replace the text of the bill or amendment with new language, as was the case here.)

Republicans maintained that Burgess' amendment would address both stationary and mobile sources of emissions. Democrats said that Eshoo's language was more comprehensive.

Eshoo herself pointed out that the underlying bill focused on infrastructure, and that's why her amendment focused on storage and transport. "We all want VOCs minimized. It is the way biofuels are going to become effective in our country, and how they are stored and how they are handled is going to give rise to what we are all seeking," she said, adding that Burgess and Republicans did not cooperate in making the amendment "a bipartisan effort."

In the end, eleven Republicans crossed party lines to support Eshoo's amendment, and Democrats were unanimous in their support. By a vote of 242 to 185, an amendment to require the EPA to consider the impact biofuel additives have on emissions during storage and transport was added to a bill to give the agency $10 billion to study how to convert the nation's pumps to biofuels.

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