Energy lawmakers aim to unveil RFS reform plan in Oct.

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013

A House Energy and Commerce task force formed to evaluate options for reforming the renewable fuel standard met yesterday morning for the first time since the August recess and is aiming to release a proposal sometime in October, a key energy lawmaker said yesterday.

Energy and Power Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who is not part of the task force but attended the meeting, said the lawmakers are still looking into different options for reforming the standard, which requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into motor fuel a year by 2022. The goal is to put out a proposal that can garner bipartisan backing, Whitfield said.

“We’re hoping that we can come forth with something that has widespread support,” Whitfield said.

Before the recess, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) tapped Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a lawmaker with both ethanol and refining interests in his district, to lead the committee’s efforts to reform the standard. The mandate was the subject of two contentious hearings earlier in the summer during which a variety of stakeholders pushed in varying degrees to either leave the standard as is, reform it or repeal it completely.

Opponents of the mandate in the environmental and livestock sectors have tied corn ethanol to high food prices and greenhouse gas emissions. The oil industry is calling for its full repeal, arguing that it forces refiners to blend more ethanol into gasoline than is technically feasible in today’s infrastructure.

Full repeal of the standard, though, it not likely to receive enough support in Congress. Shimkus and the other members of the task force — Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) — have maintained that they are taking on the near-impossible task of looking for a way forward that will balance the competing interests of the stakeholders involved.

Whitfield said the majority staff is working on an almost daily basis with the Democrats on the Energy and Power Subcommittee, who are led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

The subcommittee chairman said he saw room for compromise between those advocating complete repeal and no change at all but that it was a “complicated issue.”

“There are so many different viewpoints. I think even [U.S.] EPA wants to do something because I think they’re kind of tired of dealing with this issue, too,” Whitfield said. “I think we’ll know a lot more in the next week or so.”

Gardner, who gave a speech earlier this week to members of ethanol trade group Growth Energy in town to advocate for the RFS, yesterday also expressed a desire to find a compromise. He said the task force planned to hold more meetings in the coming weeks.

“I think what we want to do is make sure we’re taking in all voices into account, all the interested partners,” Gardner said, “and that’s why we will continue to get together and work through these issues.”