Four U.S. Lawmakers Begin Second Effort at Biofuels Reform Bill

Source: By REUTERS • Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NEW YORK — A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers will begin their second attempt on Wednesday to introduce a bill that would reform the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program in the United States, targeting an end to ethanol fuel-blending mandates.

The lawmakers said the bill would eliminate requirements for corn-based ethanol blending and cap blending levels for other biofuels at actual production levels. They hope the latest move will garner support now after months of disputes over how much biofuel should be blended with oil-based fuels and growing concerns that the program drives up agriculture and food costs.

The RFS Reform Act is the latest bid in recent years by Republican Representatives Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Steve Womack of Arkansas and Democrats Peter Welch of Vermont and Jim Costa of California to change a government program that Welch described as a “well-intended flop” in an interview this week.

The same bill failed to pass in the House when the group of four introduced it in 2013.

Supporters of the RFS say that the policy reduces greenhouse gas emissions and creates jobs in the U.S. farm belt.

“We’re going full bore again with this Congress,” said Goodlatte, who also plans to introduce an even tougher bill on Wednesday that would repeal the RFS altogether.

The reform would effectively do away with a mandate that corn-based ethanol be blended in gasoline and repeal the waiver that raised the cap on ethanol content at 15 percent from 10 percent after Congress expanded the RFS policy in 2007.

Aside from the bill, Goodlatte says the group will also continue lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government body that regulates the RFS program created in 2005, for changes. The agency is under increased scrutiny for its handling of the RFS after it delayed setting blend mandates for 2014.

The EPA has not yet set target levels for 2015 and 2016.

The issue has also garnered some attention in the Senate, where Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Patrick Toomey introduced a similar proposal to repeal the corn ethanol mandate that never made it to a vote.