Ethanol industry speaks out against Senate RFS bill 

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015

The renewable fuel industry hit back yesterday at Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) for their bill that would eliminate federal requirements for refiners to use corn ethanol.

“They are wrong — as wrong as you can be — and in so many ways,” Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuel Association said in a conference call with biofuel industry leaders.

Feinstein and Toomey’s bill would remove corn ethanol from the renewable fuel standard (RFS) included in a 2007 law aimed at fostering U.S. energy independence and lowering greenhouse gas emissions (Greenwire, Feb. 26).

Dinneen slammed Feinstein and Toomey for claiming that the fuel standard has had a detrimental impact on the environment and raised fuel and food costs.

“Politicians never let the facts get in the way of a good talking point,” he said, arguing the bill would do the opposite of what its sponsors allege.

Brent Erickson of the Biotechnology Industry Organization agreed with Dinneen, saying that the bill would actually increase transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by about 92 million metric tons this year.

Though the bill would only erase the corn ethanol standard, Erickson argued that it would cause a chilling effect on the entire biofuels market by making investors question whether politicians are supportive of the industry.

“Investors always ask how large a market is for a product. Is it open? Is there room for growth?” he said. “This bill would restrict the size of the overall biofuel market and scare investors away.”

Erickson’s and Dinneen’s organizations were among 10 that sent President Obama a letter about the RFS in response to the senators’ legislation.

The letter urges Obama to direct EPA to craft a new biofuels rule to “support growth for existing and new biofuels technology and lives up to the original intent” of the RFS.

Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council explained that the coalition wrote to Obama and not the senators to emphasize that though there might be problems with the RFS as it stands, “the tonic for our issues is over at the White House and the EPA.”

“There is really no problem on the congressional side, and we want to make it clear,” he added.

On the call, Jeff Lautt of the biorefinery company Poet LLC bristled at Feinstein’s assertion that corn ethanol’s inclusion in the RFS has “stunted the growth of environmentally friendly advanced biofuels like biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.”

Lautt said his company has built its cellulosic and biodiesel plants next door to its corn ethanol plants to help share infrastructure.

“There is inherent synergy between the two,” he said.

Coleman agreed, saying Feinstein’s assertion made no sense and that she was misleading the public about how technological advancement works.

“It is generally understood that you don’t facilitate the use of second-generation solar panels and wind turbines by taking away support from first-generation solar panels and wind turbines,” he said. “The technologies build on each other.”