Despite RFS delay, industry has ‘amazing potential’ — Vilsack 

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014

Biofuel exports, high ethanol blends at U.S. gas pumps and military procurement are boosting the country’s biofuel economy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today.

Speaking at the Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C., Vilsack defended biofuels, calling for their promotion in global trade and framing the recent downturn in gasoline prices as a potential boon for plant-based fuels.

“I’m optimistic about the industry. It’s just got amazing potential,” Vilsack said.

He called for a “multitude of ways” to help the industry, including exports to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed regional trade agreement among the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile and nine Asian-Pacific nations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently under negotiation.

His words come less than three weeks after the industry’s fiercely guarded policy — the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) — took a hit when U.S. EPA announced it would not make a final decision on mandated 2014 volumes this year. The rule was intended for release in late 2013 (Greenwire, Nov. 21).

The RFS delay charged opponents of the policy, who say the process is unworkable for regulated oil and gas companies.

But with gasoline prices down, Americans will be encouraged to drive more and consume more fuel, said Vilsack, with a choice of blends at the pump, from 15 to 85 percent blends of ethanol, known as E15 to E85.

The market demand from the Department of Defense also provides a bright future for the industry, he said. The Navy announced a $500 million investment in biofuels in 2012.

“We know if the choices are provided, people will make them,” said Vilsack, adding, “I am bullish on this industry