Dueling RFS ads come to D.C.’s airwaves

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014

Both supporters and opponents of renewable fuels are launching ad campaigns in the coming days.Americans United for Change is planning to launch an ad accusing the oil industry of putting profit in front of protecting American homegrown energy. The ad will air in the nation’s capital during the Sunday cable talk shows.The American Petroleum Institute, on the other hand, plans to roll out an ad campaign Monday that features consumers concerned about harms caused by the federal biofuel mandate. The first ad features a family of four walking onto the House floor wearing orange life jackets and carrying paddles.

“Hi, um, our boat engine just died. We had to paddle to shore,” the father tells members of Congress. “Mechanics said it’s that renewable fuel mandate, which forces the blending of too much ethanol into our fuels.”

The competing ad campaigns come as U.S. EPA is weighing whether to finalize a proposal that reduces the 2014 requirements for ethanol and advanced biofuel under the renewable fuel standard. EPA is going through comments on the proposal now and is expected to come out with a decision in late spring.

Biofuels supporters say cutting the standard would hurt the domestic ethanol industry and stymie investment in advanced biofuels. Critics, including API, say that EPA’s action is a step in the right direction but that the RFS should be completely repealed by Congress.

In a statement, Americans United for Change Executive Director Caren Benjamin said she believes the oil industry wants to put renewable fuels out of business. The new campaign by the group follows two other TV ads, both of which push back against the oil industry.

“It’s time to draw the line not just because gutting the RFS is another giveaway to Big Oil but because it’d be a huge takeaway from our rural economies, our national security, environment and innovation towards cleaner renewable fuels of tomorrow,” Benjamin said. “Why would we mess with the success of the RFS.”

The API ad being launched Monday in Washington, D.C., is the first in a series that will run on TV, in print and online. The ad was paid for by API but is also supported by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and BoatUS.

Future ads will feature a grocery shopper and a landscaper coming to Congress to complain that renewable fuels are driving up the cost of food and hurting small engines, respectively. The campaign will air in select states, as well as the nation’s capital.

Refiners argue that they have been hurt by the standard because of limits to the amount of ethanol that can be used in fueling infrastructure and because of EPA’s delay in issuing a final rule.

“We will continue to push for long-term, for Congress to address this,” Bob Greco, API’s director of downstream activities, told reporters today. “Ideally, we want this repealed, but Congress needs to step in and provide the relief that EPA just isn’t providing now and address the shortcomings of the RFS permanently.”

Neither organization revealed the cost of the campaigns.