Farm group warns effort to forge compromise is biased toward oil industry

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A national farm group this week suggested that an effort by the Bipartisan Policy Center to chart a path forward on federal biofuels policy was falling victim to long-drawn lines of combat over the renewable fuel standard.

In an email sent to renewable fuels industry stakeholders, National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Programs Chandler Goule admonished RFS supporters for not actively participating in BPC’s project, an advisory group that will result in a suite of policy recommendations.The group is “very unbalanced” toward oil industry critics of the biofuels industry, he said.

“The renewable fuels supply chain is thus not fully represented,” he wrote in the email obtained by E&E Daily. “National Farmers Union has attended the meetings, and we push hard against the oil industry. But, we are a general farm organization and it is difficult for us to engage in discussions that are more technical in nature.”

In an interview, BPC spokeswoman Rosemarie Calabro-Tully said the advisory group launched last November as a means of having “a mix of people who might not normally sit around the table” examining the renewable fuel standard and potential opportunities for reform.

The advisory group has met for two out of three planned meetings and is aiming to release a set of potential legislative and regulatory options in the fall for addressing various issues that have been raised by RFS stakeholders. BPC also commissioned five white papers on various renewable fuel standard topics.

The goal of the effort is to “really try to move from beyond just statements to develop policy options,” said Scott McKee, senior energy policy analyst at BPC. “We thought a lot of the debate was listing grievances or saying that the RFS is working.”

But getting the various stakeholders to compromise and move forward on the RFS last year thwarted the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which convened a series of hearings on the policy and formed a special task force to draft reform legislation.

Led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the group failed to advance any legislation or get all sides of the debate to come to the table. Though lobbyists are still hitting congressional offices behind the scenes, action essentially died when U.S. EPA released a proposal that would roll back the nation’s renewable fuel targets for the first time.

Responding to the criticism of BPC’s effort, Calabro-Tully said that BPC’s group has been a mix of stakeholders representing oil, biofuels, environmental and other interests. She said that the RFS is among several issues that have been wrapped up in the Washington, D.C., “culture of distrust” and that it was difficult to find areas of agreement.

BPC is separately working on a broader project “trying to address ways to get people to still talk to each other, even if they disagree,” she said.

In his email, Goule urged renewable fuels proponents to take a more active role.

“We are missing a great chance to be at the table rather than on the table,” he said.