Bipartisan Senate bill would eliminate corn ethanol mandate 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015

Bipartisan legislation introduced today in the Senate would eliminate federal requirements for refiners to use corn ethanol.

The bill by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) would strip corn ethanol from the renewable fuel standard. The legislation is similar to an amendment that the duo introduced during the Keystone XL debate earlier this year.

“The federal mandate for corn ethanol is both unwise and unworkable,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Our bill addresses that with a simple, smart modification to the Renewable Fuel Standard program.”

Congress passed the current version of the renewable fuel standard in 2007 as a means of promoting energy independence and lowering the greenhouse gas footprint of transportation fuels.

The standard provided for yearly mandates of both conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels; up to now, corn ethanol has made up the vast majority of the RFS.

According to Feinstein and Toomey, the heightened demand for corn ethanol brought on by the RFS has led to negative impacts on the environment, driven up food costs and threatened car engines.

In a statement, Toomey said that RFS requirements for corn ethanol have hurt small refiners in Pennsylvania that don’t blend their own ethanol and instead must purchase credits to show compliance.

“Under government mandates, refiners — such as ours in Trainer, Pa. — are forced to make a choice: increase the ethanol content in their fuel blends or pay a penalty by purchasing credits from energy traders,” Toomey said. “Once again, this is the government using corporate welfare to shower money on a favored industry and then send the bill to the general public.”

Feinstein last year introduced the legislation with former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is an original co-sponsor of the bill introduced today.

Opponents of the renewable fuel standard’s inclusion of corn ethanol today praised the legislation.

“We applaud Senators Feinstein, Toomey, and Flake for their bipartisan leadership to repeal the corn ethanol mandate of the Renewable Fuel Standard,” National Taxpayers Union Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift said in a statement. “This is an important first step toward alleviating the market distortions and substantial economic harm inflicted by these misguided regulations.”

The ethanol industry slammed the bill, arguing that it would “eviscerate” the renewable fuel standard. Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group, also pushed back against the claims by the senators that ethanol had caused higher food prices and harmed the environment.

“Just like their previous failed attempt, this legislation is incredibly shortsighted,” Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said in a statement. “Nearly identical legislation has been introduced in the past and has always failed to gain any traction since a majority of senators understand the importance of homegrown, American renewable fuels.”

A coalition of biofuels groups is planning to host a phone briefing later today in opposition to the bill.