E15 bill a ‘big, wet kiss’ for Big Oil — biofuels groups

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013

Biofuels supporters slammed a proposed measure that would halt gasoline with an increased level of ethanol from entering the marketplace.

The legislation introduced yesterday by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and David Vitter (R-La.) is “fueled by emotion and loyalty” to oil constituents, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said.

It is a classic example, he said, of a “David-versus-Goliath” situation.

“Now that ethanol represents 10 percent of the American fuel supply and growing, oil companies are panicked. They are fighting to preserve their monopoly, their unfair and outrageously expensive tax credits, and most of all, their record-breaking profits,” Dinneen said. “Ethanol is no longer a gnat nipping at their precious ankles. It is a threat to the oil-centric status quo.”

The bill introduced yesterday by Wicker and Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would freeze ethanol blending at the 10 percent level, the level found in most gas stations today. It would reverse U.S. EPA’s decisions to issue partial waivers under the Clean Air Act allowing 15 percent ethanol in gasoline to be used in cars from model years 2001 and newer.

E15 is being sold in a handful of gas stations in the Midwest but has yet to make a dent in the market. Opponents of E15 have cited a number of concerns, including voided warranties, damage to car engines and a high probability of use in vehicles not approved for the fuel.

“EPA’s flawed waivers allowing E15 amount to government bureaucrats issuing short-sighted regulations that negatively impact families and businesses across the country,” Wicker, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement yesterday. “The concerns surrounding E15 that existed prior to the waivers have increased instead of diminishing.”

American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, a refining industry group and adamant opponent of federal ethanol policies, today applauded the legislation.

“The fact that EPA would allow a fuel in the marketplace that it knows will threaten existing engines and refueling infrastructure is inconceivable and is a glaring example of EPA’s willingness to place politics ahead of science,” AFPM President Charles Drevna said.

Ethanol groups defended E15, noting the extensive testing that EPA and the Department of Energy conducted prior to approval. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the proposed legislation was indicative of the “lengths Big Oil will go to protect its federal petroleum mandate.”

“The Wicker-Vitter bill is a big, wet kiss for Big Oil on Valentine’s Day,” Shaw said. “Banning a legal product from competing with foreign oil is the ultimate in big government, nanny-state protectionism for the coddled petroleum industry.”

Also today, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a vocal opponent of ethanol, introduced legislation that would force EPA to set its yearly target for cellulosic biofuel based on the previous year’s production. The bill requires a target that is no more than 5 percent or 1 million gallons — whichever is greater — higher than the amount of cellulosic biofuel commercially available in the previous year.

The bill is in response to refiners’ concerns that EPA is mandating production of cellulosic biofuel, or fuel made from plant-based materials like agricultural residues, switchgrass and municipal solid waste, that does not yet exist in the marketplace. It is similar to legislation introduced last week in the House and Senate (E&ENews PM, Feb. 7)