Biofuel supporters call for strong RFS during Fuels America event

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Monday, June 13, 2016

On June 9, Fuels America held a press conference at the site of U.S. EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) hearing in Kansas City, Missouri. During the event, biofuel advocates voiced their support for the RFS program.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts kicked off the press conference by stressing the RFS is one of the most successful energy programs Congress has ever passed. We are urging the EPA to live up to the statutory requirements that Congress put into place, he said.

As vice chair of the Governors’ Biofuel Coalition, Ricketts indicated he is encouraging the EPA to update the data used to develop the recently released proposed standards to set renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2017, along with biobased-diesel RVOs for 2018. “Agriculture has progressed tremendously in the past five years,” he said, noting U.S. farmers are growing more crops on less land with fewer inputs.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, stressed he wants to make two specific points. First, he said it is shocking and frustrating that EPA seems to not understand what the RFS program is all about. When the agency released the RVOs in May, he said an EPA spokesperson called those number achievable given the realities of the marketplace. “The RFS was intended to change the reality of the marketplace,” Dinneen stressed. “The RFS was intended to make oil companies and gasoline markers do that which they otherwise would not do—to invest in the infrastructure to allow E85 and E15 to be sold. The EPA allowing the realities of the marketplace to dictate how much renewable fuel is used turns this whole program on its head and I don’t understand why this agency is so confused.”

Second, Dinneen said the EPA’s own analysis has shown 14.2 billion gallons of ethanol will be used in E10 next year, along with 300 million gallons in E15 and E85. An additional 600 D6 renewable identification numbers (RINs) will be generated by renewable diesel and biodiesel. “That 15.1 billion gallons for those of you like me who aren’t very good at math,” Dinneen said. “So, why in the world would they set the level then at 14.8 [billion]. EPA needs to read their own analysis and get this right.

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, called ethanol a great American success story. “But every year,” she said, “those on the front lines of the fight for energy security have to overcome a mountain of political hurdles. A call to action has never been more important.”

“Make no mistake,” Skor continued, “consumer demand for higher blends is on the rise.” E15 is currently sold in more than 23states and several major retailers are already either offering the fuel or have committed to selling it, she said. “As EPA noted in their own proposal, to date we have seen no compelling evidence that the nationwide ethanol concentration in gasoline cannot exceed 10 percent.”

Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said the EPA’s proposal is sending the wrong signal to farmers, investors and others. “In keeping with the promise of the RFS, America’s corn growers have stepped up to the plate investing in innovative techniques needed to meet our nation’s energy needs, expand crop yields, and protect our environment,” he said. “In fact, American farmers produced record crops last year and we expect to do the same thing this year.”

According to Bowling, any reduction from statutory targets will take America backward, threatening our nation’s environment, economy and energy security.

Richard Fordyce, the Missouri director of agriculture, drew parallels between the EPA’s June 9 RFS hearing and a similar event held last year, noting many biofuel supporters are still trying to get the same message through to EPA. While the agricultural industry has taken issue with various EPA regulations, including the Wasters of the U.S. rule and the Clean Power Plan, he noted the RFS is one issue that should be pretty straight forward for an agency tasked with protecting the environment. “The fact that we are having such a struggle to get them up to speed and get them to where they need  to be when it comes to environmental protection is, again, a tad bit perplexing,” he said.

Chris Soules, an Iowa farmer and reality television start of “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars;” Annette Sweeney, an Iowa farmer and former state representative; and Brian Sowers, Missouri sportsman and cohost of Crappie Masters TV, also spoke during the press conference.

The RFA also released a statement outlining the testimony Dinneen delivered during the actual EPA hearing. “We encourage EPA to truly put the RFS ‘back on track’ and finalize the 2017 conventional renewable fuel renewable volume obligation (RVO) at the 15-billion-gallon statutory level,” he said. “EPA’s proposed rule for the 2017 RVOs marks an improvement over the final rule for 2014-2016 RVOs, but it ultimately falls victim to the same legal malady that plagued your last rulemaking,” Dinneen testified. “Simply put, EPA continues to allege that ‘supply’ somehow equates to the capacity to distribute or consume renewable fuels. However, the statute does not allow EPA to consider imagined constraints on distribution when deciding whether to utilize a general waiver of the volumes. The intent of Congress was abundantly clear: if the physical supply of renewable fuel exists to satisfy statutory volumes, then EPA must enforce the consumption of those volumes. And it is beyond dispute that the industry is providing an adequate supply to meet the statutory mandate for conventional biofuels.”