Calif. Democrats urge EPA to boost refiner targets

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, October 19, 2015

Seven Democrats in California’s congressional delegation called last week for stronger annual renewable fuel requirements for refiners.

The lawmakers slammed a U.S. EPA proposal setting 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable fuel targets, as well as the biodiesel target through 2017, warning that it threatened to “halt the progress” in bringing second-generation biofuels to scale.

While the proposal EPA released in May would increase year-over-year mandates for refiners under the federal renewable fuel standard program, it calls for less renewable fuel use than Congress wrote into the 2007 statute that enacted the RFS.

“As EPA works to develop the final rule,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Administrator Gina McCarthy, “we urge it to take action to get the RFS back on track and ensure consumers have access to the cleanest and most affordable transportation fuels.”

The letter comes as several groups opposed to the renewable fuel standard launched a new ad campaign in the Washington, D.C., area calling for the elimination of federal corn ethanol requirements.

Rep. Eric Swalwell of California led the Oct. 14 effort, with fellow Democratic Reps. Julia Brownley, Susan Davis, Sam Farr, Scott Peters, Loretta Sanchez and Jackie Speier signing on to the letter.

The lawmakers credit the renewable fuel standard with supporting 60,000 jobs in California, based on data collected by pro-RFS group Fuels America. They argue that the standard has helped develop the domestic advanced biofuels industry, which is generally accepted to deliver greater greenhouse gas benefits than corn ethanol.

According to the letter, EPA’s proposal threatens to remove incentives for the oil industry to invest in next-generation fuels.

They also questioned EPA’s justification for proposing lower renewable fuel levels than Congress laid out in the 2007 statute. EPA has based the proposal mostly on a short-term limit to the amount of ethanol that can be distributed in existing fuel infrastructure.

“[T]he very purpose of the RFS was to create a market for renewable fuels,” the lawmakers wrote. “And, the reality is distribution [waivers] are not necessary because the statute can be met with our existing infrastructure.”

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), in contrast, has taken a strong position against the renewable fuel standard, co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would eliminate corn ethanol requirements and require EPA to set certain advanced biofuel targets at actual production levels.

Costa has raised concerns about the RFS’s effects on livestock producers, food manufacturers and energy producers (Greenwire, Feb. 4).

Those sectors have called on EPA to set even lower renewable fuel targets in its final rule, which EPA is poised to release by Nov. 30.

Today, groups opposed to federal mandates for ethanol launched what they called a significant ad buy in the Washington, D.C., area. The television ad, which will run for several weeks in the Beltway, cites recent studies that question the greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol.

It also highlights former Vice President Al Gore’s 2010 statement that supporting first-generation ethanol was a “mistake.”

“Mounting scientific evidence has revealed the inconvenient truth: Increasing ethanol mandates can actually make things worse,” a voiceover says in the ad.

The American Council for Capital Formation, National Council of Chain Restaurants and National Marine Manufacturers Association are funding the ad.

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