Bipartisan lawmakers seek support for RFS reform bill 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015

A bipartisan coalition of four House members this week attempted to drum up support for legislation that would reform the renewable fuel standard. On Monday, the group circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to House offices seeking co-sponsors for the legislation, which would eliminate the annual requirements for corn ethanol, among other changes to the RFS. The bill could be introduced as soon as next week, according to sources tracking the RFS.

“The RFS is causing unintended and negative consequences for American consumers, energy producers, livestock farmers, and food manufacturers and retailers,” Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) wrote. “The RFS needs fundamental reform and we urge you to join us by cosponsoring legislation to accomplish this task.”

Congress passed the renewable fuel standard in 2007 to require refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and advanced biofuels into petroleum fuels. Proponents of the policy in the biofuels industry say that the standard has been vital in reducing greenhouse gases and increasing energy security.

But critics say that ethanol has had a negative impact on food prices, car engines, the environment and the livestock industry. They also charge that the RFS overestimated the amount of cellulosic biofuels, or fuels made from non-food plants, that would be in the market.

Along with striking corn ethanol from the RFS, the legislation led by Goodlatte would also cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into petroleum gasoline and would compel U.S. EPA to base its annual targets for cellulosic biofuel on actual production numbers.

“The federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has quite frankly created a domino effect that is hurting consumers,” Goodlatte, Costa, Womack and Welch wrote in their letter.

The lawmakers introduced a version of the legislation in the 113th Congress, but the bill died in committee. It had 82 co-sponsors, nearly a quarter of them Democrats. A strange-bedfellows coalition of oil, environmental, livestock and food groups supported the bill; biofuels groups, on the other hand, strongly opposed it.

Goodlatte also sponsored legislation last Congress to completely eliminate the RFS.