Ethanol groups seek meeting with White House officials

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A dozen companies and organizations representing the biofuels industry are asking to meet with White House officials before new blending levels are proposed by June 1.

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama Monday, Poet, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association and other groups said they would like to meet with the Obama administration because of delays in announcing new annual ethanol blending levels and evidence that those targets will eventually be set below what Congress mandated eight years ago in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Your decision on this matter has consequences far beyond simply setting the fuel mix for the next two years,” the ethanol groups said in the letter. “This decision comes at a critical juncture for our industry, as well as for your legacy on advanced biofuels and climate change.”

The letter was released to the public Tuesday.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of alternative fuels, much of it made from corn, to be blended into millions of gallons of fuel pumped into cars and trucks by motorists each year. The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the mandate, will propose blending levels for the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2015 by June 1, and a final rule outlining the volumes for 2014 and 2015 by the end of November.

The EPA, which initially proposed setting the 2014 figures below what Congress intended because not enough renewable fuel was going into the motor fuel supply, pulled the measure due to widespread opposition from Midwest leaders and farm groups.

The ethanol groups told the president in their letter that they asked to meet with the EPA before the 2014 proposal was released “but were rebuffed. We would like to work with you to ensure that the mistake is not repeated. “

Ethanol groups contend the EPA’s delay in putting in place the blending levels and proposing a lower target created widespread uncertainty in the industry and slowed investment in the next-generation of ethanol made from crop residue, grasses, wood chips and other materials. 

A study released this week by the Biotechnology Industry Organization estimated government delays in setting new blending levels reduced investments by $13.7 billion and prevented the advanced biofuels industry from meeting target volumes set by Congress.

“EPA’s delays in rulemaking over the past two years have chilled necessary investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels just as they reached commercial deployment,” said BIO, which represents DuPont and other companies.

Opponents of the mandate, led by the American Petroleum Institute, have stepped up pressure on the Republican-controlled Congress to rework or repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard. They contend it is fatally flawed and no longer works in today’s changing energy landscape – people are driving less and cars are more fuel-efficient. Moreover, consumers are not showing enough demand for higher ethanol blends.

Iowa produced a record 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014 — about 27 percent of country’s production and more than any other state.