Biofuels groups press for Renewable Fuel Standard

Source: Dan Piller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012

The various biofuel advocacy groups, who haven’t always seen eye to eye on every issue, joined to sign a letter this week to congressional leaders urging retention of the Renewable Fuel Standard that mandates ethanol and biodiesel use.

The letter went out under the signatures of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), 25x’25 Alliance and Energy Future Coalition.

The petroleum industry has questioned the validity of the renewable fuel standard, passed originally in 2005 before huge new discoveries of domestic oil and gas have caused an unexpected surge in American oil and natural gas production.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warned Iowans last month that “Big Oil,” in his words, was pushing back against the RFS.

The biofuels group letter urged congress to reject attempts to reduce, waive, or eliminate the mandates, which this year will require use of almost 14 billion gallons of ethanol and 1 billion gallons of biodiesel.

“Today, ethanol is approximately $1 cheaper than gasoline and blending ethanol into U.S. gasoline saves consumers at the pump,” the groups said.

A Center for Agriculture and Rural Development analysis found that from 2000-2010, ethanol reduced gasoline prices at the pump an average of 25 cents per gallon which meant consumers annually saved $34 billion dollars.

“Thanks in part to the RFS, U.S. oil imports fell below 50 percent in 2010 for the first time since 1997, and, oil imports stand as just 45 percent today,” the letter stated.

“Because of the RFS, the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industry is now in the process of building new plants, innovating existing production facilities with emerging technologies, and introducing new product streams that will allow the renewable fuels sector to become more profitable, diversified and efficient,” the groups wrote. “Several billion dollars have been invested in advanced biofuels development with the expectation that Congress will stay the course with regard to its commitment to the industry and to the stability of the RFS. Efforts to amend or reform the RFS would send a chilling signal to a marketplace at just the time when the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industries are on the cusp of commercial production to help meet this nation’s energy independence and security needs.”

The groups concluded, “Anything short of full support for the RFS will exacerbate the problem of increasing gas prices and undercut the ethanol industry’s efforts to innovate and continue to deliver domestically-produced and affordable alternatives to foreign oil.”