Bipartisan bill would include ethanol from fossil fuels in renewable standard

Source: Amanda Peterka • E&E  • Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) today will introduce bipartisan legislation that would allow ethanol produced from domestic natural gas and coal to be included in the federal renewable fuel standard.

The “Domestic Alternative Fuels Act” is intended to allow those sources to compete with corn-based ethanol and stop an escalation in food and feedstock prices, Olson said. It would create a new category for domestic fuels in the renewable fuel standard, allowing U.S. EPA to set volume obligations to meet the standard.

Under the RFS, the United States must produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2022 with 15 billion gallons coming from corn.

“The RFS focus on corn ethanol has translated into higher feed costs for livestock producers and higher food costs for working families,” Olson said in a statement. “While Congress considers eliminating the RFS altogether, we should in the meantime allow greater participation and competition under the program.”

Co-sponsors of the bill include Republican Reps. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and David McKinley of West Virginia and Democratic Reps. Gene Green of Texas, Jim Costa of California and Charlie Gonzalez of Texas.

Trade groups from the pork, beef, chicken and turkey industries, along with America’s Natural Gas Alliance and Grocery Manufacturers of America, all support the proposed legislation.

“Unfortunately, the RFS has allowed the federal government to mandate corn-based ethanol production volumes, which has put cattlemen and other end-users of corn at a competitive disadvantage,” said Bill McDonald, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in a statement. “Congressman Olson’s bill is a step in the right direction.

But ethanol industry organization Growth Energy sharply criticized Olson for undermining the goals of the RFS, “which are to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Stephanie Dreyer, a spokeswoman for the group, in an email to Greenwire.

“Putting an opening in for all these fossil fuel products will do nothing but perpetuate our addiction to oil,” she said, “but I guess this is to be expected from an oil state representative.”