Anti-ethanol ads called misleading

Source: Written by Christopher Doering, Argus Leader • Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013

S.D. advocates say campaign directed by Big Oil impugning fuel standard amounts to ‘scare tactics’

WASHINGTON — A controversial media blitz in South Dakota and other states by the oil industry attacking the country’s ethanol and renewable fuels policy has drawn the ire of local groups concerned the ads are misleading and should be pulled.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents 500 oil and natural gas companies, this week launched “Fuel for Thought,” a TV, radio and print ad campaign about the dangers of the Renewable Fuel Standard — an 8-year-old law that requires refiners to produce alternative fuels to help reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.

“These ads are the first in a series designed to educate American consumers on why we must end this unworkable mandate,” said Bob Greco, API’s downstream director. “These ads will encourage more Americans to tell the White House to fix the problem before it’s too late, while urging Congress to completely repeal the RFS.”

The ads feature a mechanic working on a car in a garage. They read, “the Higher Ethanol Mandate Could Damage Your Engine … And Void Your Warranty” and conclude, “Your engine won’t like it, but your mechanic will.”

But AAA said the ad misrepresents its position as being “anti-ethanol.” In November, the membership organization for drivers said the Environmental Protection Agency should halt the sale of a higher blend fuel, containing 15 percent ethanol, until more tests are done and the public becomes more aware.

“AAA South Dakota remains a strong supporter of the development and use of alternative fuels such as ethanol,” the auto group said in a statement.

Leaders of the auto club say ethanol fuels provide drivers with a choice at the pump that promotes U.S. energy independence, supports jobs and can save the consumer money.

At Poet, the country’s largest ethanol producer, CEO Jeff Lautt said in an interview that the oil industry “is trying to do scare tactics” on consumers after previous efforts to push for change with the public and through the court system failed.

“They’ll do anything they can to prevent an alternative fuel from being offered to consumers,” said Lautt, who heads the Sioux Falls company. “It’s a complete waste of money. I think they should pull the ads.”

South Dakota, the country’s fifth-largest renewable fuels producer, has a big stake in the battle over renewable energy policy. The state produced more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol last year.

Opponents of the RFS have argued higher ethanol blends such as E15 — motor fuel that contains 15 percent of the corn-based fuel — damage cars and place consumers at risk.

But Poet and other ethanol supporters have said the fuel is safe, citing consumers who already are using E15, and a battery of tests from the EPA and others that verify its safety.

The EPA, which approved the new blend in January 2011, gave the OK for it to go on salein June 2012. The fuel, which has been approved for use in cars and light trucks built since 2000 but is banned for older vehicles and light equipment, has been slow to get off the ground because of the time and cost it takes to comply with the new requirements.

Lawmakers have introduced legislation to reform the RFS and ban any fuel blends with more than 10 percent ethanol, but so far the bills appear to be languishing in Congress.

White House energy adviser Heather Zichal said at an event Thursday in Washington that “calls to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard are nothing but shortsighted.

“We, as an administration, are confident that the EPA can implement the statute in a way that continues to provide the benefits that Congress envisioned while addressing challenges in the fuels marketplace,” she said.