Amendment to crude-export bill would torpedo ethanol mandate

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is trying to attach a provision to eliminate the corn ethanol mandate to legislation that would repeal the crude oil export ban, according to industry sources.

According to amendment language obtained by E&ENews PM, the senator is weighing two measures that would strike corn ethanol from the federal renewable fuel standard, which Congress passed in 2007 to spur increased use of biofuels in the nation.

The measures would achieve the same objective as legislation Toomey and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced earlier this year (Greenwire, Feb. 26). Toomey would leave intact other federal requirements for using advanced biofuels, according to the amendment language.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee tomorrow will take up the crude oil exports bill in a markup.

Toomey spokeswoman Elizabeth “E.R.” Anderson said she “will not confirm any amendment strategy” for tomorrow’s markup but pointed to the senator’s past efforts to eliminate the corn ethanol mandate.

“Senator Toomey is always looking for ways to end this practice, which is little more than government using corporate welfare to shower money on a favored industry and then sending the bill to taxpayers,” Anderson said.

Toomey and other members of the Pennsylvania delegation have previously expressed concern about the impact of the price of RFS credits — known as renewable identification numbers, or RINs — on the state’s small refineries. The RFS credit program particularly affects those refineries because they do not blend their own ethanol (E&E Daily, July 25, 2013).

The Delta Air Lines-owned Monroe Energy refinery in Trainer, Pa., is among those refineries that have expressed concerns about the RIN program. Jeff Warmann, head of firm, testified in March in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that Monroe also had concerns about lifting the crude oil export ban because it could send jobs overseas.

It’s unclear how an amendment targeting the renewable fuel standard would fare in a vote in the banking committee. Several of the committee’s members, including ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), have publicly expressed support for the program.

Heitkamp is sponsoring the underlying bill to authorize crude exports, which are largely restricted by a 1970s-era law enacted in the wake of the Mideast oil embargo.

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said that a measure targeting corn ethanol would inevitably hurt the advanced biofuels industry. He said that the goal of the Toomey measure appeared to be to complicate the progress of the overall export bill.

“We don’t enjoy being used as a pawn to short-circuit the oil export ban,” he said. “No one should be fiddling with our industry in that way.”