Group worried about Obama giving in to Big Oil — emails

Source: Marc Heller, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Advanced biofuels are losing to big oil companies in the Obama administration’s approach to renewable fuels, a chief biofuels advocate complained to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman last year.

In a May 24, 2015, email to Clinton campaign aide John Podesta — released by WikiLeaks — Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy appeared not to agree with his members’ view that easing biofuel mandates based on distribution challenges would cripple the federal renewable fuel standard.

Fuel distribution is an important consideration, Coleman said, because those networks are dominated by petroleum companies that don’t want to give up market share to other fuels. At issue is whether EPA can set renewable fuel volumes lower than congressional mandates based in part on how easily those fuels are distributed around the country.

“It’s pretty simple. The oil industry controls fuel distribution. So if distribution issues stop the RFS, then the RFS is stopped because the oil industry has more than enough market power to make distribution an issue,” Coleman said in the email, in which he complained about lack of traction with McCarthy and senior White House advisers Brian Deese and Dan Utech.

“For whatever reason, we are not making an impression on McCarthy, Deese (who we cannot even get to), Utech, etc. that introducing ‘distribution to the consumer’ as a 3rd waiver condition (to justify slowing ethanol down for the ‘blend wall’) will paralyze the RFS,” he wrote.

The Clinton campaign hasn’t disputed the authenticity of the hacked Podesta emails, which WikiLeaks has been releasing selectively in batches. Reached by email today, Coleman wouldn’t elaborate on the email.

Coleman said the administration seemed inclined to side with the American Petroleum Institute, which represents major oil companies. And he made a pitch for continued conversation with Podesta to discuss potential policy positions for the campaign, following up on a meeting “in the halls of the Capitol on Thursday.” The immediately prior Thursday was May 21, 2015.

A “good proposal” has the biofuels advocates backing a Democratic administration, “shooting outward against the oil industry,” Coleman said.

“A bad proposal, on the other hand, forces our industry to tack around against a Democratic Administration (which is bad for other Ds unless addressed), which also plays right into the Republican’s hands,” he added. “To be clear, this is not meant as a threat, I am just being honest about what I am seeing if the President comes back at us with this thing.”

Coleman added, without elaborating, “There are obviously tactics that can be deployed at the last minute (both with the campaign and the current Administration) that would not be news to you.”

The Advanced Biofuels Business Council includes companies such as DuPont Co., Sweetwater Energy Inc. and Enerkem Inc.

The group criticized the administration’s RFS fuel blending for 2017, released earlier this year, as falling short of officials’ stated goal of driving the commercialization of advanced, low-carbon biofuels.

Clinton has said she wants to “get the RFS back on track,” including boosting development of advanced biofuels.

Campaign leaders met earlier this year with California regulators to discuss that state’s low-carbon fuel standard, which might suggest a backing away from corn ethanol, but the Clinton camp later reiterated its support for the RFS.