Part 5 of the Madville Times' South Dakota State Fair Congressional Debate analysis
Question 4 at Sunday's debate: what will you do about the international indirect land use penalties to protect biofuels? The indirect land use penalty is the idea of discounting the greenhouse gas emissions savings achieved by biofuels based on the carbon released when farmers convert forest and other previously unplowed land to cropland.
I know that now, thanks to Google and Wikipedia. I didn't know it Sunday, and from the sounds of the answer, Kristi Noem didn't know much about it, either. Noem said we need someone to promote a competitive market and avoid detriments to farmers' income. She said we need to pick the candidate who's been proactive on issues, gone forward and carried tough issues and fought for people.
Maybe Noem just assumed that the ag-heavy crowd already knew what the indirect land use penalty was. She certainly didn't explain it. Not one thing she said indicated she had a specific plan for dealing with it. Her answer was pure campaign-speak.
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin sensed he advantage and pounced. Her first words were a direct response to the question and to Noem's tactics: "By continuing to fight with the facts." Herseth Sandlin said Congress has already worked bipartisanly to change the definition to protect the use of woody biomass in the Black Hills. She addressed Noem's general call for "leadership" by pointing out that we're making progress now, because the EPA hasn't used the bad indirect land use definition. The USDA is doing its own calculation pushed by bipartisan work on the House Ag Committee.
Herseth Sandlin said the Ag Committee is fighting the attorneys who want to deep-six the ethanol industry. She said they are fighting this administration as much as the last to protect ethanol. She said the USDA is our ally and that her willingness to fight has prevented the bad indirect land use definition from being implemented. Fight, fight, fight... Herseth Sandlin was forceful, passionate... oh, but I suppose those are bad qualities, right, Pat?
Wrong. It could be that Herseth Sandlin sounds more passionate in these debates because she's more confident than the woman sitting next to her. Noem knows she's in deep water and her Fox News talking points will only float so far. She's terrified of real hard questions. On this hard question, Herseth Sandlin recognized Noem had just buffaloed the audience and missed the facts. Herseth Sandlin thus swung hard, owned the question, and owned the stage.
Assessment: Advantage Herseth Sandlin. Without a doubt.
p.s.: Big scary Speaker Nancy Pelosi was backing Herseth Sandlin on this issue. In ACESA, the climate change bill, she supported an agreement with Reps. Waxman and Peterson to tighten the requirements for imposing any indirect land use penalty for biofuels. Under the ACESA provisions, USDA would have had to agree to any definitions along with EPA and DoE. The American Coalition for Ethanol loved this agreement and wanted the Senate to follow suit. Advantage Pelosi!
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