Industry advocates band together to push for federal ethanol mandate

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012

Eight of the biofuels industry’s biggest advocates are forming a coalition to push for policies to advance energy security through the domestic production of biofuels.

The formation of the Biofuels Producers Coordinating Council comes as the ethanol industry is facing increasing attacks on and off Capitol Hill, prompted by months of drought that has sent corn prices soaring. Livestock industries and several members of Congress have called for U.S. EPA to waive the federal biofuels mandate to provide relief.

The members of the new council will push the Obama administration to maintain the federal renewable fuel standard, which supports not only corn ethanol but also the production of cellulosic and other advanced biofuels.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard sets a path for energy security, reduced reliance on foreign oil and a cleaner, healthier environment by setting annual standards to increase production and use of biofuels in the United States,” the Biotechnology Industry Organization said in a release announcing the new group.

The council will comprise Michael McAdams from the Advanced Biofuels Association; Brooke Coleman from the Advanced Ethanol Council; Mary Rosenthal from the Algal Biomass Organization; Brian Jennings from the American Coalition for Ethanol; Brent Erickson from the Biotechnology Industry Organization; Tom Buis from Growth Energy; Anne Steckel from the National Biodiesel Board; and Bob Dinneen from the Renewable Fuels Association.

Yesterday, two of those members — Buis and Dinneen — held a joint news conference to counter what they called a spread of misinformation about corn ethanol and its role in corn prices, which have topped $8 a bushel.

“It’s really a shame that the critics are trying to take the drought and turn it around and blame ethanol for it,” Buis said.

There are several groups pushing the administration to waive the standard to help the livestock industry cope with the drought. Yesterday, a group of 156 House members urged EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reduce the ethanol mandate (E&ENews PM, Aug. 2). Several Senate Democrats and Republicans are also working on similar letters to the agency.

The biofuels groups have Capitol Hill allies in large ethanol-producing states, where lawmakers have called on the administration to hold strong on the renewable fuel standard, which this year mandates that refiners blend 13.2 million gallons of ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply.

“There are groups out there that have forever been against the RFS,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said yesterday. The call to waive the standard is just “an announcement from opportunists,” he said.

Despite the many calls to waive the federal mandate, the biofuels groups did win some legislative victories this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to add $100 million in funding for the military’s biofuels program, while the Senate Finance Committee included biofuels tax incentives in its tax extenders package.