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The White House climate change paradox

The White House recognized climate change champions, one for its use of biodiesel, yet the administration has created a situation with RFS uncertainty that is stifling biodiesel producers from maximizing their ability to help combat climate change
By Ron Kotrba | December 10, 2014

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of California was designated this month as one of 16 Climate Action Champions by the White House, and the only one of 16 honored specifically for its use of biodiesel.

A federally recognized tribal government, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe began its strategic climate action plan in 2008 and is a regional leader in strategically planning and implementing both climate resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction measures, according to the White House. To date, the tribe has reduced energy consumption by 35 percent and has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2018, utilizing a range of approaches including the use of biodiesel to power public buses and aggressive energy efficiency measures.

The White House frames the Climate Action Champions competition like this: “From deep droughts to fierce wildfires, severe storms to rising seas, communities across the United States are already grappling with the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. Faced with these new challenges, many cities, towns, counties, and tribes in every region of the country are stepping up to cut carbon pollution, deploy more clean energy, boost energy efficiency, and build resilience in their communities to climate impacts.

“That is why earlier this fall the White House launched the Climate Action Champions competition, to identify and recognize local climate leaders and to provide targeted federal support to help those communities further raise their ambitions. Following a competitive process led by the Department of Energy (DOE), today the Administration is announcing 16 communities from around the country as the first cohort of Climate Action Champions.

“The Obama Administration is committed to taking decisive action to combat climate change. Just last month, to drive international discussions leading up to the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris, President Obama made an historic joint announcement with Chinese President Xi Jinping of each country’s respective targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the post-2020 period. Building on the United States’ bipartisan history of supporting financing for clean energy and climate adaptation in developing countries, the president also announced the United States’ $3 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund.

“But international leadership begins at home, which is why the Obama administration is continuing to partner with state and local governments, businesses, and philanthropic organizations to make progress on climate change in the United States. …”

Does anyone following the renewable fuel standard (RFS) debacle see the paradox here?

It is wonderful that the White House is honoring communities for their efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change—particularly by designating the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe as a Climate Action Champion for its use of biodiesel. Congratulations are in order for the tribe. But how can the administration propose to stall the biomass-based diesel standard for two years at 1.28 billion gallons (EPA’s 2014-’15 RVO proposal released in November 2013), wait all of this year to finalize the rule only then to say it can’t get it done until 2015, while the biodiesel industry, which produces the fuel the administration honors as part of an effective climate change plan, suffers in the face of policy uncertainty the administration created, thereby fostering a situation in which the biodiesel industry is producing less green fuel for communities to use to combat climate change?

The incongruity of the situation is baffling. If the White House were serious about climate change and its recognition of biodiesel as a way to combat it, then it would finalize the RFS rule immediately with a significant increase in the biodiesel mandate and stop succumbing to the heavy-handed, deep-pocketed lobbying pressures of Big Oil—the industry that produces the fuels from which the White House is trying to mitigate emissions.

This industry has shown time after time that it can exceed any production challenge put to it. President Obama, let biodiesel do what it does best while accomplishing important items on your presidential agenda: significantly reduce noxious and greenhouse gas emissions, create American jobs, reduce dependence of fossil fuels and foreign oil, and build out the green economy.