Inslee’s plan would boost biofuels to hurt oil industry

Source: By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) released his plan to marshal farmers and rural communities to fight climate change, building on his five earlier proposals to reshape the U.S. economy.

The final climate plan from Inslee’s presidential campaign aims to help farmers recover from the combined effects of rising temperatures and historic underinvestment in rural infrastructure, as well as “an erratic Trump administration that’s harder to predict than the weather.”

Its key planks include expanding biofuels, federal financing of rural infrastructure, and paying farmers to improve their soil and sequester carbon.

Research dollars would also triple under Inslee’s plan. He proposes creating an Advanced Research Projects Agency-Agriculture (ARPA-Ag), modeled after the research arms of the Energy and Defense departments. He also wants to boost land-grant colleges and agricultural extension services.

Inslee frames biofuels as a way to “break Big Oil’s stranglehold on our political system.” While biofuels aren’t yet cutting emissions, he says they’re key to future clean-energy systems and should get government support.

The next presidential term could transform the renewable fuel standard as the White House and EPA gain more discretion over the standard in 2022. Inslee wants to leverage that new control into more aggressive carbon performance for biofuels, while also undoing the Trump administration’s RFS waivers to 31 oil refineries.

Water management plays a big role in Inslee’s rural infrastructure plans. Touting his work in Washington to manage drought in the Yakima Basin and flood protections in the Chehalis Basin, Inslee wants to send more infrastructure money to local communities through pre-disaster mitigation grants, community development block grants and other existing federal programs.

He’s also calling for a national flood standard and money for “relocation grants.”

Farmers could get federal payments for “carbon farming” that sequesters emissions in the soil, according to Inslee’s plan, which would tie payments to performance metrics. Inslee also wants federal crop insurance to focus more on climate, including rewards for farmers who build soil health and use their land as a natural defense against climate impacts.

Inslee would triple funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program to $3 billion annually to help support those initiatives.

The plan also touches on issues beyond climate, such as protecting farmworkers’ right to unionize, prosecuting antitrust cases against big agribusiness, and making it easier for women and people of color to start their own farms.

Inslee’s previous plans have outlined decarbonizing the energy system, mobilizing climate jobs, promoting climate action abroad, ending fossil fuel subsidies and promoting environmental justice.

Inslee is set to miss next month’s CNN climate forum due to his low poll numbers. He has gotten more than 130,000 campaign donors but still needs more polling support to reach future Democratic presidential debates.