Grassley, Iowa GOP delegation call on Biden to support biofuels in infrastructure deal

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Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley this week called on President Joe Biden to support the nation’s biofuels community as the administration pursues a paired down $1.7 trillion infrastructure spending proposal.

Grassley joined fellow Iowa Republicans U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and Reps. Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, in sending a letter to Biden urging him to uphold his promise to support biofuels.

Biden has pledged to “promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol and other biofuels to help rural America.” Grassley and Iowa’s GOP congressional delegation, however, have criticized the $174 billion included in the White House’s plan to subsidize electric vehicles, while hardly mentioning the biofuel industry.

Grassley, in a weekly conference call with Iowa reporters on Wednesday, called the administration’s goals of boosting production and sale of electric vehicles and building a network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030 “unrealistic” and “idealistic.”

“I’ve always been for alternative energy,” Grassley said, noting his support of the wind energy tax credit. “And we’re turning more and more to alternative energy all the time, but we’re still going to be needing fossil fuels for a while.”

Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel industries employ about 40,000 jobs in Iowa, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. Iowans Grassley argues “would be out of work,” in addition to lowering the price of corn, “which would be very detrimental to the economy.”

Iowa’s GOP congressional members urged Biden to recognize the ability for biofuels to be a permanent clean energy solution, with developments in farming practices and in carbon capture technology.

“Biofuels provide an immediate solution to help decarbonize our transportation sector while supporting rural America and providing a low carbon, cost effective choice to consumers,” the members wrote. “Biofuels should not be treated as a transition fuel, but prioritized as a fuel of the future.”

The letter urges the administration to “support flex-fuel vehicles and cost-effective infrastructure improvements that will pave the way to higher biofuel blends.”

Grassley, however, added he had no reason to believe that Biden will not support biofeuls, and that their lack of inclusion in a infrastructure deal would not necessarily impact his vote.

“This whole thing for me, as a senator from Iowa, is fighting for the interest of the family farmer and the Iowa ag economy,” Grassley said. “And Iowa Republicans in our letter want President Biden to join us in that effort.”

Ernst on Wednesday voted to advance a bipartisan five-year transportation infrastructure package as a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Ernst, during the committee hearing, spoke in support of Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, raising issue with a charging and fueling infrastructure grant program she argues unfairly neglects biofuels.

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The bill, Ernst said, allows states to use federal highway funding for lock and dam modernization and rehabilitation projects to address aging and inadequate water infrastructure, which Ernst said threatens the economic viability of farmers, manufacturers and other stakeholders. The measure also ensures Iowa’s share of federal highway funding is maintained, and requires disclosure of government-funded transportation projects that are $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule.

“This bill includes support for real infrastructure projects that will have a direct impact on Iowa communities, and it brings transparency and accountability for projects over budget and behind schedule,” Ernst said.

Ernst said the bill should be used as a starting point for a bipartisan infrastructure plan, “instead of the Democrats’ nearly $2 trillion proposal that spends less on fixing potholes and repairing roads than on promoting electric vehicles.”

Grassley on Wednesday also reiterated his opposition to House-passed legislation that would create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Senate was expected to vote on the proposal this week before the Memorial Day recess. Passage, however, seems unlikely.

Senate Republicans, including Grassley, say the commission is unnecessary in light of ongoing criminal investigations by the FBI and U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security as well as by various congressional committees.

Ten Republican votes are need to advance the bill in the Senate.

“(T)here is plenty of work being done to understand how the attack was allowed to happen and to hold criminals accountable,” Grassley said. “A commission would duplicate those efforts and take more time at greater expense to the taxpayers.”

Grassley also renewed his call that the scope of the panel’s investigation be broadened to “look at the rash” of violent acts that occurred during riots and racial justice protests over the last eyar following the killing of George Floyd by police.

“A commission that focuses on one event, but avoids the bigger picture, will not yield the information we need to fully address the rise of anti-government violence,” Grassley said.