High crop prices driven largely by the demand for ethanol and biodiesel are spurring farmers in the Corn Belt to convert vast amounts of grassland into cropland, according to a new study that is drawing heat from the ethanol industry. The conversion of 1.3 million acres of grassland into cropland between 2006 and 2011 has significant implications for the environment, including a likely reduction in bird diversity, greater flood risk and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found.
The ethanol industry is again being threatened and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is putting out a warning to leaders in states like Nebraska, the nation’s number-two ethanol producer. Vilsack says ethanol is clean-burning, renewable and helps reduce dependence on foreign oil. “This is an important industry to agriculture. It’s an important industry to consumers of this country because you absolutely pay less at the pump because we have a healthy renewable fuels industry,” Vilsack told reporters after his private meetings at the statehouse. “The renewable fuels standard is the lynchpin to that healthy industry. It’s also the lynchpin to further investments in advanced biofuels that will allow us to expand significantly beyond corn-based ethanol, which will be a good thing.”
President Obama hasn’t nominated U.S. EPA air chief Gina McCarthy to be the agency’s next administrator, but EPA friends and foes alike sure are acting as though it’s a done deal. Both groups agree on one thing: If Obama picks McCarthy — a straight-talking former state regulator and leader of the EPA office responsible for recent high-impact rules for limiting greenhouse gases and air toxics from power plants — he’s hellbent on plowing ahead with aggressive environmental regulations in his second term.
A coalition of oil and food industry groups filed a petition with the Supreme Court Thursday asking it to overturn a lower court decision that said they didn’t have standing to sue over a federal decision to allow more ethanol in fuel. The American Petroleum Institute’s Bob Greco said the groups also plan to ask Congress to overturn the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that he says is “simply unsustainable” because of the allowance of higher levels of ethanol. API and the Grocery Manufacturers Association were joined by groups representing the meat, pork and chicken industries in the petition because of the effect increased use of corn for fuel has on the prices the food industry has to pay for feed and raw materials. Corn is used in the production of ethanol.
Nine groups led by the American Petroleum Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association asked the Supreme Court to take up a case challenging U.S. EPA’s decision to expand the level of ethanol allowed in gasoline. The groups — a subset of the original petitioners — are asking that the Supreme Court reverse that decision. “The D.C. Circuit incorrectly concluded that none of the 17 petitioners had standing to challenge the E15 partial waivers,” said Bob Greco, director of API’s downstream activities.
A bill that would repeal a state requirement that gasoline contain ethanol passed a House subcommittee on Tuesday by one vote.
HB 4001 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, would repeal the requirement passed in 2008 as part of an energy bill championed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to change the way EPA sets targets. Supporters – including Vilsack – are concerned that will effectively kill the development of next-generation biofuels. “Look, this is an important industry to Iowa, it’s an important industry to agriculture,” Vilsack told reporters. “It’s an import industry to the consumers of this country because you absolutely pay less at the pump because we have a healthy renew fuel industry.”
The European Union has approved a nearly 10 percent duty on ethanol imports from the United States. The Council of the European Union said it approved yesterday a duty that translates roughly to a $83.03-per-metric-ton tariff on all ethanol coming into the European Union from the United States.
The debate over tax reform is just starting on Capitol Hill, and its implications for energy companies have not yet been a central piece of lawmakers’ discussions, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is claiming the left flank of the debate with legislation introduced yesterday. Sanders’ bill would eliminate a broad swath of tax benefits for oil and natural gas companies while extending renewable energy tax credits through 2020 — longer than even some renewable industry officials think those credits will be necessary.
Joint Statement: Advanced Biofuel Organizations Set the Record Straight on API’s Latest RFS Distortions and Attacks
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is once again misleading Congress and the general public about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS); this time, as it pertains to a January 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The ruling ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the 2012 RFS obligation for cellulosic biofuels but rejected all other complaints brought by API. API now wants to pressure EPA to do what the Court would not.