Bills to reform, repeal RFS introduced in the House

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013

Standing in front of the Capitol yesterday, flanked by bipartisan supporters, a Republican lawmaker rolled out a reform bill aimed at cutting the targets set in the renewable fuel standard and removing corn ethanol’s eligibility for credit.

The same lawmaker also then quietly introduced legislation that would completely repeal the standard, which U.S. EPA uses to set yearly levels of ethanol and advanced biofuel.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he is not opposed to renewable fuels but believes they “should compete fairly in the marketplace.”

“The RFS debate is no longer just a debate about fuel or food,” Goodlatte said. “It is also a debate about jobs, small business, and economic growth. The federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has, quite frankly, triggered a domino effect that is hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers and retailers.”

It was widely expected that Goodlatte would introduce his reform measure, which has the backing of Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The bill would reduce the overall renewable fuel standard requirements by more than 40 percent, from 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 to 21 billion gallons. The measure would also cut corn ethanol out of eligibility in the standard and cap the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline at 10 percent.

It would also compel EPA to base its annual cellulosic biofuel targets on the previous year’s actual production, addressing complaints by the oil industry that the agency is penalizing refiners for not using a fuel that is not yet widespread in the market.

“This legislation will bring the fundamental reform this unworkable federal policy needs now,” Goodlatte said.

Goodlatte’s goal, though, is complete repeal of the standard, which would be accomplished in another measure he introduced yesterday with less fanfare than the reform measure.

It is unlikely Congress will pass either bill, though; despite the calls to change the RFS, the biofuels mandate still has strong backing from lawmakers from the major farm states. Reform, though, has more bipartisan support and would likely be more politically feasible than repeal.

Oil industry groups are backing the repeal measure, while the reform bill has support from than 40 environmental, anti-hunger, livestock, small-engine manufacturers and right-leaning fiscal groups.

“It is clear, when EPA is unable to provide even a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 70 years to assure adequate feed and food supplies, that something is broken and needs to be fixed,” said National Pork Producers Council President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn.

Biofuels organizations and supporters urged Congress not to gut the standard.”Rep. Goodlatte’s bill would keep gas prices at the mercy of global oil markets and rob consumers of clean, competitive fuels,” a coalition of biofuels, agriculture and national security interests said.