A basic fact about agricultural products such as grains and oilseeds is that the carbon in them, called biogenic carbon, came from the atmosphere. Biogenic carbon will return to the atmosphere when these products are consumed, such as when human beings eat bread and then breathe out the carbon dioxide resulting from the breakdown of bread in the body. Biogenic carbon therefore cannot contribute to climate change.
Why is the Environmental Protection Agency denying this basic fact of climate science? The EPA is counting biogenic-carbon emissions as if they were the same as fossil-carbon emissions. They are not the same. Carbon atoms emitted by burning fossil fuels are, in effect, on a one-way trip from the ground to the atmosphere, where they will stay for hundreds of millions of years. In contrast, carbon atoms taken from the atmosphere to make agricultural products are on a round trip from the atmosphere to farms then back to the atmosphere.
The EPA intends to penalize American farmers and those who make modern energy and bioproducts such as plastics from agricultural feedstocks by treating biogenic carbon like fossil carbon. As part of its approach, the EPA is now attempting to regulate “sustainability” in the farm field.
The EPA is trying to put itself in charge of regulating farms—an outstanding example of “mission creep” and bureaucratic overreach. Regulating agriculture is not the EPA’s job—we already have an Agriculture Department. The EPA’s approach would demand proof of exactly which farm produced every pound of corn, wheat, soy or cottonseed used by customers of those farms—a practical impossibility in the U.S. agricultural system.
Should we be surprised that a bureaucracy who sees their mission to save the world have a problem with understanding any limit on their mission or power.