GOP House energy leader does not expect to change biofuel rule

Source: By Zack Colman, The Hill • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012

A top House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican said he does not expect Congress to change a renewable fuel mandate, despite the oil-and-gas industry’s goal of weakening it.

“I don’t think that there’s going to be any effort to roll back the renewable fuel standard,” Energy and Power subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said Thursday at an event hosted by CQ.

The rule requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuel into transportation fuel by 2022. Currently, corn-based ethanol dominates the market, but “advanced” biofuels made from non-edible feedstock are just now coming online.

Protecting the mandate is a chief concern for the biofuel community, which says changes to it would spook investment in “advanced” biofuel technologies nearing maturation.

Whitfield’s comment earned praise from biofuel groups, which have combined for a new lobbying effort aimed at securing congressional support for the fuel rule.

“As there is an ethanol plant in Mr. Whitfield’s district, he understands firsthand the importance of ethanol to local economic development, consumer gasoline prices and national energy security. We look forward to working with the chairman on protecting and promoting the RFS [renewable fuel standard] in the new Congress,” Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen told The Hill in a statement.

Whitfield’s prediction seems at odds with oil-and-gas lobby the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has said defeating the rule is one of its top legislative priorities for next year.

An API spokesman told The Hill that the group is planning a media call on the topic this month, but did not comment on Whitfield’s remarks.

API CEO Jack Gerard said in a July hearing held by Whitfield’s subcommittee that the rule unfairly forces refiners to buy credits for a type of biofuel that is not yet commercially available.

Fiscal conservatives also criticized the rule in that hearing for institutionalizing government intervention in the energy market. And some Democrats oppose the rule on environmental grounds, saying incentivizing biofuel production drives up global food prices.