Bill targets RFS, a ‘well-intentioned flop’

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, November 15, 2019

Two Democratic lawmakers proposed legislation yesterday to cut corn ethanol production while encouraging farmers to convert cropland into pasture and wildlife habitat.

Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said their measure, called the “GREENER Fuels Act,” would cap the amount of ethanol that may be blended into gasoline at 9.7%, resulting in a reduction of a billion gallons of ethanol.

Conventional biofuel volume mandates would fall gradually from 15 billion gallons currently to 1 billion gallons by 2030.

The legislation would maintain mandates for cellulosic and advanced biofuels until 2 billion gallons of those fuels is reached annually or by 2037, whichever comes first.

The lawmakers, who’ve supported legislation in the past to phase out requirements for conventional ethanol, have complained about the fuel’s potential to damage small engines, as well as the loss of grasslands and forests converted to crops used in biofuels — assertions the ethanol industry disputes.

Their legislative efforts haven’t gone far, as the renewable fuel standard has substantial support in Congress and is a core issue for farm-state lawmakers and farm organizations. Bills proposing rollbacks haven’t advanced in committee, although several panels have held hearings on the issue.

“For years, the Renewable Fuel Standard has been unable to deliver on the promise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and instead has contributed to wildlife habitat destruction and more water pollution from fertilizers and pesticides,” Udall said in a news release.

The measure would speed a transition away from food-based crops to greener alternatives that are more climate-friendly, he said.

Welch, in a news release, said the RFS is a “well-intentioned flop.”

To encourage farmers to return cropland to pasture or non-agricultural uses, the bill would create a fund called the Private Land Protection and Restoration Fund.

The Interior Department would use the funds for easements on private lands to keep them out of agricultural production and to help farmers transition land out of production.

That fund, they said, would be supported with a charge of 10 cents on each renewable fuel credit traded among the fuel companies for compliance with the biofuel mandate, in addition to any appropriations from Congress.