60 lawmakers urge Obama admin to not retreat from biodiesel goals

Source: Amanda Peterka • E&E  • Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sixty bipartisan House and Senate members today urged the Obama administration to stay the course on a proposed 2013 volume requirement for biodiesel, warning that a retreat would stymie the still-fledgling industry’s rapid growth.

In June of last year, U.S. EPA proposed raising its yearly requirements for biodiesel production to 1.28 billion gallons, up from 1 billion required this year and 700 million in 2011. The agency sets the volume obligations, along with ones for other types of biofuels, through the renewable fuel standard.

But the agency delayed a final rule for biodiesel in December, saying it was “continuing to evaluate the many comments” it received from stakeholders. Biodiesel producers sounded the alarm, worried that the delay meant EPA was considering lowering the requirement to 1 billion gallons, the minimum level allowed under the RFS (Greenwire, Feb. 2).

In a letter to Obama, 34 House members said lowering the requirement would be “devastating, particularly in this economy.”

“Approving the EPA’s proposal to increase the biodiesel volume requirement by a modest 280 million gallons will create American jobs and improve our environmental and energy security,” said the lawmakers, 13 of whom were Republican. “The status quo, however, will reverse the growth of the domestic biodiesel industry, downsize manufacturing jobs and increase our dependence on foreign oil.”

In a separate letter, 26 senators urged Office of Management and Budget acting Director Jeffrey Zients to finalize the 1.28-billion-gallon volume requirement “as soon as possible.” The office and EPA are reviewing the rule.

The senators said they remained committed to the goals of the renewable fuel standard and “believe that timely increases in the biodiesel volumetric requirement will send important signals to capital markets.”

The letter was signed by six Republicans: Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Dick Lugar of Indiana and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was among the 20 Democratic signatories.

The U.S. biodiesel industry has so far been a bright spot in the advanced biofuels sector, producing a record 1.1 billion gallons last year. But the expiration of a tax credit and upheaval due to fraud in the credit-trading market have left many uncertainties in the industry.

Given strong federal support, however, the industry is on track to produce as much as 1.4 billion gallons this year, supporters say.

The National Biodiesel Board, the industry’s trade group, applauded the support from lawmakers.

“This really should be an easy decision for the Obama administration,” Anne Steckel, the board’s vice president of federal affairs, said in a statement. “We’re talking about modest growth for the only EPA-designated advanced biofuel that’s in commercial-scale production across the country today. It is directly in line with President Obama’s call for an ‘all of the above’ energy approach and his focus on clean, domestic production.”

“We hope the White House hears their message,” she added.