Despite oil group attacks, producers still upbeat about congressional support

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013

Ethanol advocates yesterday finished up a marathon two days’ worth of meetings on Capitol Hill, and their initial reports suggest that most members of Congress aren’t enthusiastic about changing the renewable fuel standard.

According to Brian Jennings, executive director of the American Coalition for Ethanol, Senate and House members on the whole said they believed that the standard was not perfect but that it was a balance that is working for the country.

“Reports were more encouraging than what we were bracing for,” Jennings said. “There is less enthusiasm than the oil companies want us to believe” for changing the RFS.

Members of the American Coalition for Ethanol, a trade group based in South Dakota, had 120 meetings on the Hill, half with each chamber of Congress, during their annual fly-in this week. The advocacy effort was capped with a joint ACE-Iowa Renewable Fuels Association event yesterday that featured a cake in the shape of the Capitol with a drilling rig rising from its dome — a gimmick meant to represent 100 years of subsidies given to the oil industry.

The message from the ethanol producers was twofold: The renewable fuel standard is working as intended, and gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, is safe for drivers. They focused their effort mostly on freshman lawmakers and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which this year has said it would hold hearings on the renewable fuel standard.

The group also met with U.S. EPA officials in a pair of meetings to discuss E15, renewable fuel feedstocks, flex-fuel vehicles and the agency’s greenhouse gas rule, Jennings said.

The push to bolster the renewable fuel standard came as the market for ethanol credits is experiencing severe volatility — a sign, oil companies say, that the standard is harming the market. Oil trade groups have vowed this year to fight the standard and are pushing several pieces of legislation that would halt the introduction of expanded ethanol into the motor fuel supply and lower EPA’s requirements for advanced biofuels.