Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/07/2003 08:03 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 16 - END FEDERAL ETHANOL SUBSIDY Number 0033 CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that the first order of business would be SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 16, Encouraging the federal government to end the federal subsidy of ethanol, and requesting the Congress of the United States to mandate that land currently used to grow corn for the production of ethanol be returned to its natural state. Number 0040 SENATOR CON BUNDE, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, relayed that he attended a conference at which one of the presenters was a gentleman from the Wilderness Society who asserted that the Wilderness Society stopped resource development in Alaska, specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). During the question-and-answer portion of that conference, Senator Bunde said, he rose and relayed that many in the audience seem to view stopping resource development in ANWR as positive, and he then posed a situation in which he had the influence in Congress to insist that Kansas take down all of its fences, get rid of all of its cattle, and let the land return to natural grass lands. SENATOR BUNDE specified that in his hypothetical situation, this would be done just because he would feel better knowing that the grassland is there. Senator Bunde said, "That's basically what a lot of people are saying about Alaska; they would like us to be their penance for their environmental sins, or [because of] some feel-good-notion that there's this mythical Serengeti of the North that they get to feel good about but not have ... any ... financial responsibility for." He informed the committee that the Kansas example seemed to resonate with those at the conference. SENATOR BUNDE informed the committee that he is originally from the Midwest and knew farmers that produced corn. He recalled that once a farmer was kidding him because he was an elected official who worked for the government, but the farmer then realized that with all the subsidies for corn he, too, was working for the government. Therefore, Senator Bunde said he has introduced SJR 16 to bring the discussion to a wider audience. He pointed out that in March Congress debated Senator Barbara Boxer's amendment, which suggested that ANWR couldn't be developed because "it is good for the soul of the country". To that, Senator Bunde suggested that if it's good for Alaska to keep portions of the state pristine, then perhaps other states should [do so as well]. SENATOR BUNDE said that this resolution is meant to help these other states accomplish just that. The resolution points out how those states with some of the largest, most influential industrial businesses that derive great profit from federally subsidized ethanol can restore their own wildlife and land, and in the process save billions in federal revenue. He clarified that he has nothing against farmers, but the main producers of corn used to make ethanol are huge conglomerates. These companies make an immense profit from the production of ethanol, the production of which takes as much fossil energy as it produces. Recent information indicates that Alaska doesn't really need the ethanol for its air quality. Therefore, he characterized ethanol subsidies as "pork barreling." Senator Bunde offered his hope that SJR 16 would highlight a different way of viewing [ANWR]. Number 0609 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said he has two concerns with the approach of SJR 16. First, Alaskans receive more federal funds per capita than citizens of any other state. Second, the best approach to persuading someone is through logic and reason rather than insults and grabs at his/her pocketbook. He highlighted that California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota are swing states in the battle to open ANWR. Therefore, if something is done that generates adverse public relations for Alaska, it will be more difficult to be persuasive in Congress and will thereby deal ANWR a greater blow. He concluded by predicting that although this resolution may be emotionally satisfying, it will have negative repercussions. SENATOR BUNDE pointed out that logic has been tried for a number of years, but it hasn't seemed to counter what he said he views as very emotional arguments. Therefore, he said he doubted that Alaska would experience success continuing in its current manner. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ highlighted that Alaska continues to send money to Arctic Power and Arctic Power continues to send Republicans to Washington, D.C., to talk with Republican legislators. Although the aforementioned has proven to be unsuccessful, it continues. Therefore, he said he would suggest changing one variable at a time and that this wouldn't be the variable he'd recommend changing. SENATOR BUNDE informed the committee that he has worked with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski's office, which provided a great deal of the information detailed in SJR 16. He noted that he provided her with an initial copy of the resolution and her written comment was "Go get 'em, Con." CHAIR WEYHRAUCH indicated that perhaps the Mississippi River, a wild and scenic river, and other [resource-related areas] should be included in the resolution. Chair Weyhrauch offered his belief that this should be part of a broader national campaign. He said he liked what Senator Bunde is doing. REPRESENTATIVE HOLM surmised that when people talk about corn production and ethanol production, the use of urea formaldehyde, which comes from oil, isn't discussed. Furthermore, the fertilizers used are oil based. He indicated that the connection to oil in farming is pervasive. SENATOR BUNDE remarked that it's easier to make decisions about policy when the impacts fall in someone else's backyard. Number 1013 REPRESENTATIVE HOLM moved to report SJR 16 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, SJR 16 was reported from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.