House moves forward on ethanol reform, but no bill yet

Source: By John Siciliano, Washington Examiner • Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2018

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is on course to create legislation to develop a national biofuel program that places consumers first, said Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the Republican chairman of the committee, on Wednesday.

The committee’s environment panel held its fifth hearing Wednesday on reforming the nation’s biofuel program, with the intention of educating members on the intricacies of ethanol credits before possibly dropping a Renewable Fuel Standard bill later this year.

“This is the fifth hearing on the future of transportation fuels,” Walden said. The hearing was squarely focused on educating members on the role that Renewable Identification Number credits play in ensuring oil refiners meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel blending requirements each year.

RINs have been a contentious issue, especially given the EPA’s use of dozens of waivers to help refiners escape the high cost of the credits in meeting the ethanol mandate.

Walden wants members brought up to speed on what RINs are as he prepares to drop legislation to address problems with the EPA renewable fuel program. But he does not think that all members are as knowledgeable on all the issues surrounding RINs, and more education is needed.

“It is my desire to move legislation that will pave the future of transportation fuels into the next decade,” Walden explained. “And in order for this to happen, it is important for us to understand what RINs are and how they fit into the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

He explained that RINs do affect the overall fuel market and cost of fuels, and “therefore it affects consumers, and we are going to place consumers first.”

He said today’s hearing was not meant to “drive a preordained policy” decision on the use of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply or any other fuel. Nor was it “intended to settle scores,” said Walden. It was intended to be educational.

EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said on Tuesday that he is open to discuss the differences of opinion on how the fuel program was run under former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who resigned over numerous scandals on July 5. “When everyone is complaining about the program, we need to look at ways to change the program,” Wheeler said.

The ethanol industry has numerous complaints over how the biofuel program is being managed, including waivers granted to refiners in “secret” and not moving ahead on President Trump’s plan to expand the use of higher ethanol fuel blends.

Wheeler said he is willing to make concessions, but only if the ethanol industry is also willing to do so, he told reporters after an event on Tuesday.