Groups say Obama’s RFS plan hurts climate legacy more than ‘worst enemies’

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, September 22, 2014

As Climate Week kicks off, biofuels producers are calling out President Obama for proposing to scale back the nation’s renewable fuel requirements.

In a print ad yesterday, trade groups representing advanced biofuels producers said the Obama administration’s proposal would run contrary to its goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. EPA proposal, which is in the final stages of review at the White House, calls for decreases in both corn ethanol and second-generation biofuels that refiners have to blend this year in petroleum gasoline and diesel.

It would represent the first decrease in the yearly mandates for the fuels since Congress passed the renewable fuel standard in 2007. EPA based the reductions on the blend wall, the term used to describe a 10 percent limit to the amount of ethanol that the oil industry says can be used in existing fuel infrastructure, and a slower-than-expected ramp-up in the domestic advanced biofuels industry.

“Your administration is proposing to change the RFS rules in the middle of the game with a brand new methodological approach that allows oil companies to avoid their obligations under the law by simply refusing to distribute renewable fuel to consumers,” the ad says in an open letter to Obama. “You will have inadvertently done more to damage your climate legacy than your worst enemies.”

The one-page ad ran yesterday in The New York Times as more than 310,000 protesters marched in New York City to demand that global leaders take action on climate change. Tomorrow, more than 120 world leaders, including Obama, will convene at the United Nations for a summit on climate change.

The Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization signed and funded the ad. Advanced biofuels producers that are part of both trade groups have written Obama directly with a similar message (E&ENews PM, Sept. 9).

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the numerical targets for biofuels would be higher in the final rule because of higher gasoline demand since the proposal was first released last November. But advanced biofuels producers say they’re disappointed because the administration is still basing the rule off the idea of a limit to the amount of biofuel that can be used in gasoline and diesel.

They are calling on the administration to not only raise its targets but also use the standard to push past the blend wall. In the ad, producers threatened to take their business overseas if the basis for the targets is not changed in the final rule.

“America will fail to lead the charge if your administration lets oil companies off the hook,” the ad says. “And papering over the problem by increasing the RFS targets this year will not prevent the exodus of investment to China and Brazil.”

Separately, a group of renewable fuel standard foes today are meeting with the White House Office of Management and Budget as it wraps up its review of the final rule. The group, which includes the oil and livestock industry along with environmentalists, is planning to call on the administration to retain its proposed cuts in biofuels for this year.