Get the facts straight on the RFS

Source: By Douglas A. Durante, Celan Fuels Development Coalition, The • Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Hill has been, by all accounts, objective and fair in presenting opposing views on the renewable fuel standard despite what must be “renewable/RFS fatigue.” Who could blame them for never running another article on the RFS after what is now becoming an endless war of words.

However, when space is given to an argument so wholly lacking in facts such as the recent opinion piece by Tom Pyle it demands a reply. First of all it is surprising someone who heads an organization whose name is Institute for Energy Research did not do his research and learn more about the RFS. While the slant toward fossil fuels is apparent by reviewing his Institute’s mission and body of work, that should not preclude them from being more informed on exactly what the RFS is and what action EPA took. He states that Congress passed a mandate that refiners blend 36 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline. That’s not a little off or kind of wrong– it is factually wrong and intellectually dishonest.

The petroleum industry has adopted a tactic of repeating something over and over and over in the hope that eventually it will be assumed to be a fact. In this case it is that there is an ethanol mandate, when there is no such thing. Repeat after me: there is no ethanol mandate. Rather, there is a requirement that a certain percentage of the fuels the petroleum industry forces on the American public be renewable. There is a menu of options for them to choose from ranging from bio-butanol which has no limit as to the amount that can be blended, to bio-gas that can be used for any purposes natural gas is currently used. Oil companies often choose ethanol because it is a source of non-carbon, high octane which they buy at prices below its value and then sell to consumers with a huge mark up. It is no small factor in the $93 billion in profits reported by the big 5 oil companies last month.

But it bears repeating that there is no ethanol mandate and in theory the RFS could be met without a single drop of ethanol. While we do not agree with what EPA has done, the failure of the petroleum industry to offer higher blends of ethanol to the 150 million cars that can use E15, or the 20 million FlexFuel Vehicles that can use E85 is what has caused EPA to put the brakes on this program. Oil companies also like to repeat the mantra that consumers don’t want it which is rather self-fulfilling if you do not offer it.

Articles like this are not just self-serving, but on the Pinocchio scale it would get four noses. Pyle states there is a broad consensus to repeal or modify the RFS– absolutely incorrect. He states that consensus includes automakers– absolutely incorrect. The auto industry does not oppose the RFS and there is no documented position suggesting otherwise. In fact Chrysler, Ford and GM are all on record supporting ethanol as an excellent choice for a high octane, low carbon fuel. He states it makes food and fuel more expensive– again, factually incorrect. The addition of ethanol to the motor fuel pool increases supply and lowers cost, a basic economic principle of supply. And for food price, how interesting is it that corn prices are the same or even lower today as they were in 2007 when the current renewable program was expanded.

The oil industry perpetuates these myths because they do not want to see the conversation re-focus where it should be, which is why we wanted to reduce oil use in the first place. They do not want to talk about how petroleum and mobile sources are the largest source of man-made carcinogens. And, that toxic aromatic compounds in gasoline are linked to particulates and a range of health issues like asthma and various respiratory diseases. And by producing cleaner, renewable fuels here at home we empower consumers and take some of that $93 billion and put it back in our pockets.

So, if this war of words must continue, lets make them words that are based in fact.

Durante is executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition.