Ethanol industry slams RFS reform bill 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ethanol producers and corn growers are pushing back against much-hyped legislation introduced yesterday aimed at reforming the renewable fuel standard. The bipartisan legislation introduced yesterday by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would eliminate corn ethanol from the requirements of the RFS and cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into petroleum gasoline. Bill sponsors say that the changes are necessary to halt consequences such as higher food prices caused by increased ethanol production under the RFS.

But trade groups representing the ethanol and corn industries slammed the bill as a handout to special interests in the oil and food industries and said that it would harm — rather than reform — the RFS program.

“This legislation is a wish list for opponents of the RFS who want to kill the RFS and all the successes Americans have realized as a result of the policy,” said Tom Buis, president and CEO of ethanol trade group Growth Energy.

The renewable fuel standard stipulates that refiners must blend certain amounts of conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels each year into petroleum fuel. Proponents of the policy in the biofuels industry say the standard has been vital in reducing greenhouse gases and increasing energy security.

But critics say the ethanol production brought on by the RFS has had a negative impact on food prices, car engines, the environment and the livestock industry.

Goodlatte introduced H.R. 704 at a news conference yesterday with Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who are original co-sponsors. Along with targeting corn ethanol, the bill would compel U.S. EPA to base its annual targets for cellulosic biofuel on actual production numbers.

In a statement after the event, Goodlatte said that the proposed legislation would help “curb some of the most harmful effects” of the RFS and expressed optimism for getting the bill through this Congress.

The bill is supported by a strange-bedfellow coalition of environmental, conservative, oil, food, livestock, marine and motorcycle groups — which are broadly hoping that the bill will start a reform conversation about the RFS in the new Congress (Greenwire, Feb. 4).

“We have a renewed opportunity this Congress to act on real reform of the RFS,” Goodlatte said yesterday. “Growing support from lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as a diverse coalition of organizations, signals that there is momentum.”

The Renewable Fuels Association, which also represents the ethanol industry, yesterday said that the legislation, however, is a step backward for the nation’s energy policy and denies consumers the opportunity to choose ethanol at the gas pump.

Corn producers also criticized the bill, which is a rewrite of legislation introduced last year that died in committee. The National Corn Growers Association said that the RFS has helped drive billions of dollars in economic impact. Much of the economic benefit associated with the RFS has occurred in rural America — particularly in the Corn Belt.

“We should be investing in America’s farmers, not undercutting them in favor of Big Oil,” NCGA President Chip Bowling said.

In statements yesterday, oil industry groups characterized the bill as a good “first step” toward addressing their concerns with the renewable fuel standard.

But they also doubled down on calls for Congress to completely repeal the standard.

“We are leery of attempts to eliminate only the corn ethanol mandate portion,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance. “The ‘corn only’ approach is not a glide path to repeal. It does little to address the heart of the problem, which is higher fuel costs and the EPA’s gross mismanagement of the RFS program.”