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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 pared-down $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan.
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, they said, has pledged to “promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol and other biofuels to help rural America.”
But Grassley and Iowa's GOP congressional delegation have criticized the $174 billion in the White House’s infrastructure plan that would 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. “But we’re still going to be needing fossil fuels for a while.”
Iowa's ethanol and biodiesel industries employ about 40,000 Iowans, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and the plan threatens those jobs, the price of corn and would be “very detrimental to the economy," Grassley said.
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 said he had no reason to believe that Biden will not support biofuels 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.
Ernst raises issue
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.
During the committee hearing, Ernst spoke in support of Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, saying the electric vehicle charging and fueling infrastructure grants unfairly neglects biofuels.
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.”
Jan. 6 commission
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 is expected to vote on the proposal this week, and passage 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 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 year 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.