Ethanol proponents anticipating a fight

Source: By NICHOLAS BERGIN, Lincoln Journal Star • Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The biofuels industry is gearing up for a fight, a national industry spokesman said Monday.

Doug Durante, executive director of Bethesda, Maryland-based Clean Fuels Development Coalition, predicted lawsuits over the Environmental Protection Agency’s handling of quotas for renewable fuels and a hostile post-election U.S. Congress.

“The outgoing chair, Barbara Boxer, says global warming is the biggest threat facing mankind,” Durante said of the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The incoming chairman (James Inhofe, R-Okla.) says it is the greatest hoax that was perpetrated on mankind.”

Speaking at a Nebraska Ethanol Board meeting, Durante said several members of Congress are looking for a fight, including bills that would dismantle the United State’s renewable fuel standards.

“Our best bet is to pray for what Congress does best, which is nothing,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s struggle to set rules for mandating how much ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic fuels get mixed into the nation’s fuel supply only stoked the flames of discontent, he said.

Oil company lobbyists, who generally oppose the law that mandates replacing petroleum products with biofuels, are pressing Congress to dump the standards entirely, saying the EPA has bungled management of the program.

Already almost a year late in issuing rules, the EPA announced last week it would not finalize the 2014 mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard this year. Instead it will set the final volume standards in 2015, and hopes at that time to get back on schedule to propose blending volumes for 2015 and 2016. Federal law requires the agency to finish up the requirements by Nov. 30 for the following year.

Nebraska is the No. 2 ethanol producing state in the nation, with 24 plants churning out 2 billion gallons a year. Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator Todd Sneller has repeatedly called for the EPA to uphold strong renewable fuel volume requirements.

He said the proposed reductions in biofuel use impedes expansion of domestically produced renewable fuels that mitigate the harmful effects of petroleum on public health, the environment and the economy.

“Consumers deserve a wider variety of transportation fuel choices, including E15 and E85,” Sneller said in a recent news release. “The RFS was intended to ensure choices are available to consumers. Oil companies have an obligation to meet these fuel standards.”

Nearly a year ago, the EPA proposed lowering the amount of advanced biofuels and renewable fuels, like corn ethanol and biodiesel, required to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply for 2014 from just more than 18 billion gallons to about 15 billion gallons.

Durante said the biofuels industry needs to fight back against efforts to reduce mandates with lawsuits, if necessary.