Despite setbacks, ethanol lobby has no plans to change its strategy in 2014

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013

This past February, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen faced a crowd of ethanol producers and supporters at the industry’s annual conference in Las Vegas.

Pounding on the podium and becoming progressively louder, Dinneen repeated the phrase, “Don’t mess with the RFS.” He vowed to protect the renewable fuel standard, the federal ethanol mandate, from attacks on and off Capitol Hill.

It’s been a rough year.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to either completely wipe away the standard or reform it in various ways. A federal court found that U.S. EPA was overly aggressive in its push to boost advanced biofuels. Interest groups ranging from oil industry representatives to environmentalists launched campaigns and messaging drives to push for the standard’s repeal.

Most recently, the Obama administration proposed to scale back the renewable fuel standard’s requirements for ethanol and advanced biofuel use for the first time in the 2007 policy’s history.

Despite the challenges, the ethanol lobby does not have any plans to change its messaging tone or strategy in the coming year.

Dinneen said yesterday that his group would continue its drive to rally support for the renewable fuel standard, the federal policy mandating certain levels of ethanol and advanced biofuel production each year. The group’s mantra for this year, “Don’t mess with the RFS,” will continue to guide strategy going forward.

“This program is successful. This program is working,” Dinneen said. “We believe strongly that there is nothing wrong with the RFS that cannot be fixed with the RFS.”

The Renewable Fuels Association is among the most vocal supporters of the industry, often issuing harshly worded statements in response to criticism from the oil and livestock industries. The association has pushed for no changes whatsoever to the RFS, arguing that it has lowered gas prices, increased the nation’s energy security and brought wealth to rural America.

Although some industry observers predicted that biofuels groups like RFA may soften their tone after the administration issued its renewable fuels proposal for next year, the association is, at least for the moment, sticking to its guns.

“Our message remains the same,” Dinneen said.

He pointed to the failure of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to advance any RFS legislation — despite holding a round of hearings and launching a reform effort — as an example of his no-tolerance policy working.

“I think the strategy certainly had worked on Capitol Hill,” Dinneen said. “There was not a meaningful effort to move legislation.”

Along with pushing to keep the renewable fuel standard in place, the Renewable Fuels Association next year plans to push for an extension of the $1.01-a-gallon tax credit that’s available to producers of next-generation biofuels that don’t use corn starch as an input; the credit is set to expire in a couple of weeks. Dinneen said the group would also focus on providing feedback to the Obama administration on its proposal for next year.