Feinstein, Coburn prep bill to eliminate corn mandate

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Two senators are preparing bipartisan legislation taking aim at the nation’s corn ethanol mandate.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) plan to introduce the bill within the next week or so, Feinstein said in an interview yesterday. It would strip the conventional ethanol portion of the renewable fuel standard while keeping the standard’s targets for advanced biofuels intact.

The California Democrat said she was concerned that the use of corn for ethanol has squeezed livestock producers in her state.

“I think the mandate for ethanol, which is forcing a lot of additional use, is really not wise,” Feinstein said.

This is not the first swipe at ethanol by the two senators. In 2011, the full Senate voted 73-27 to approve an amendment introduced by Feinstein and Coburn to eliminate the 45-cents-a-gallon tax credit for blending ethanol with gasoline. The credit was ultimately allowed to expire at the end of the year.

The renewable fuel standard has taken heat on Capitol Hill since last year’s drought and, more recently, since the price for an ethanol credit began to rise at the beginning of the year.

Feinstein said she’s not opposed to all renewable fuels — just corn ethanol.

“I’m a big supporter” of next-generation biofuel, she said.

The ethanol industry has disputed criticism that its fuel is driving up the cost of food and feed. Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, yesterday slammed any legislative attempts to scale down the corn ethanol industry.

He warned that eliminating the standard for conventional ethanol would pull the rug out from under the advanced biofuels industry because the corn ethanol industry has built up the infrastructure and the technology upon which the next generation of fuels will rely.

“Doing damage to the corn ethanol industry because you don’t like corn, and you think you can do that and not harm the second generation, the good stuff that you supposedly like, is just incredibly naive,” Dinneen said. “I have few fears that something like that would ever get traction.”

The proposed Senate legislation comes as U.S. EPA is finishing up a proposal that would significantly scale back the amount of ethanol required by the renewable fuel standard next year from 18.15 billion gallons to 13 billion, according to a draft version.

Feinstein said she and Coburn are trying to widen support among their colleagues in the Senate before introducing their bill.