Biofuels supporters buoyed after meetings with lawmakers

Source: By Zack Colman, • Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Biofuels supporters who swarmed Capitol Hill offices this week feel confident they have sufficient congressional commitment to preserve a fuel rule critical to the industry.

The meetings come after biofuels groups hired a lobby firm to deflect attacks from some lawmakers and livestock and poultry groups against the portion of that rule that buoys corn ethanol production.

Tom Buis, the CEO of biofuels industry group Growth Energy, said the “170-some appointments” biofuels proponents held Monday through Wednesday assured him of bipartisan and administration commitment to the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

“I think they all came away really, really pleased with the visits,” Buis said of biofuels proponents. “I think people on Capitol Hill understand that this is the only really significant energy policy Congress has had in 40 years.”

Buis hinted Wednesday there could be another wave of publicity from biofuels groups in favor of the RFS. That standard, which requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into traditional transportation fuel by 2022, is credited with jump-starting the biofuels industry.

Greenwire reported last week that Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and DuPont all hired lobby firm Glover Park Group to spearhead a blitz backing the corn ethanol portion of the RFS. The story cited industry sources that said Glover Park Group would ask Democratic lawmakers for support.

Glover Park Group did not return requests for comment from The Hill.

Regarding Growth Energy’s plans, Buis said Wednesday that the group will make a “public announcement when we’re ready.” He denied the developing strategy had a partisan flavor.

“Our message is not toward Democrats or Republicans or independents — it’s toward everyone,” Buis said at a Wednesday press conference in response to a question from The Hill. “We’re nonpartisan, we have tremendous support on the Democratic and on the Republican side. … We don’t want to make it a partisan message.”

RFA confirmed Wednesday with The Hill that it had retained Glover Park Group. It disputed reports that it would focus on outreach to Democrats, saying the RFA would work with both parties.

Glover Park Group is no stranger to biofuels. The Grocery Manufacturers Association hired the firm to wage a 2008 campaign against corn ethanol, according to federal lobby disclosure records.

The corn ethanol portion of the RFS has attracted criticism from lawmakers and the livestock and poultry industries in the wake of this summer’s devastating drought.

They contend that this year’s blending requirement of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol, combined with drought conditions, has pushed corn prices to record highs. As a result, several governors have asked EPA to temporarily waive the corn ethanol requirement this year.

Biofuels groups say that logic is faulty, arguing the drought — not the RFS — has raised prices. They said refiners had already ratcheted down corn ethanol production in response to high prices, and that a chunk of corn harvested for corn ethanol is reused in feed for livestock and poultry.

Maintaining the corn ethanol portion of the RFS is crucial to bringing “advanced” biofuels to commercial scale, biofuels industry representatives said Wednesday.

Those biofuels will comprise 21 of the total 36 billion gallons the RFS requires for blending by 2022, but they are just now starting to come online. Waiving the corn portion would create instability for advanced biofuels investors, industry representatives said.