Ethanol fans fret at Clinton camp’s biofuels outreach

Source: By ERIC WOLFF, Politico • Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016

CLINTON OUTREACH TO ETHANOL CRITIC HAS CORN CROWD POPPING: A simple conversation was enough to send the simmering tensions around the renewable fuel standard into a rolling boil. News broke Wednesday afternoon that the Clinton campaign had discussed the Renewable Fuel Standard with Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, a noted critic of the ethanol standard, and potential Clinton EPA chief. Nichols is on the record as preferring her home state’s policy for getting carbon out of the transportation sector, called the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, over the RFS, a policy under attack from greens and the oil industry. And while Congress would have to act to implement a national LCFS or make serious changes to the RFS, as EPA administrator, Nichols could have a significant effect on the program.

What it could mean: The Clinton campaign immediately rejected any assertions that the candidate wants to repeal the RFS, support for which is nearly a sacrament in the swing state of Iowa. But if she wins, Clinton may face pressure to reform the program from Republicans in Congress distrustful of the EPA, environmentalists who want a more explicitly climate-fighting program (like the LCFS), and members of the oil industry who would just like to sell more gasoline. Thus, any linkage between someone like Nichols and Clinton is enough to wake up both sides of the RFS debate. “I’m actually encouraged,” a refinery executive said. “Mary Nichols is smart enough to understand that what she’s put together in California has a limited shelf life, and I don’t think she necessarily knows the answer. She knows where she wants to get to, as probably does John Podesta, but I don’t know if they have the road map yet.”

Oh hell no: The conversation certainly got ethanol proponents riled up. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has an election this year, said, “Any proposal that opens up or undermines the RFS and results in less ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels is a non-starter with those of us who understand the value of renewable fuels and the potential for industry innovation to continue indefinitely.”

Did you know? Nichols brought the first-ever Clean Air Act lawsuit back in 1972 over then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan’s delay in writing a plan to curb smog for Riverside and San Bernardino.