Industry advocates stalk Obama’s travels with strategic ads

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Biofuel advocates are greeting President Obama with ads slamming U.S. EPA’s recent proposal setting refiners’ ethanol and biofuel requirements at each of his recent stops around the country highlighting climate change.

Fuels America, a coalition of biofuel supporters and agricultural interests, today is running a full-page ad in Alaska’s most widely read newspaper as the president arrives in the state to promote actions to address climate change.

The group previously ran ads in Las Vegas during the president’s trip to speak at the National Clean Energy Summit and in New Orleans while Obama was there last Thursday to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The president spoke about climate change on both occasions.

At issue is EPA’s proposal released in late May that would set refiners’ biofuel mandates for 2014, 2015 and 2016. EPA has proposed to set the 2014 targets at actual production levels; by 2016, refiners would be required to blend 17.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels into petroleum gasoline and diesel.

Biofuel advocates have slammed the proposal for cutting biofuels usage compared to the levels that Congress wrote into the 2007 statute that created the federal renewable fuel standard.

Fuels America says that by cutting ethanol and advanced biofuel usage, EPA would be responsible for releasing more greenhouse gases than would otherwise be emitted. The coalition says it’s running the ads around the country to hold the administration “accountable.”

“Mr. President, last week you went to Las Vegas to ask clean energy investors to rely on your commitments on climate change. In a few months, you’ll head into climate talks in Paris, where you’ll ask the world to follow your lead based on those commitments,” the ad today in the Alaska Dispatch News says. “But at the same time, your Administration is pulling back on your commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard, the only law on the books combating climate change.”

The ad campaign is part of a broader push by Fuels America to persuade the Obama administration to set more robust renewable fuel mandates for refiners. Fuels America earlier this year gathered hundreds of thousands of comments in opposition to EPA’s proposal.

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said that the ads reflected “increasing frustration” among the biofuels industry with the Obama administration.

“Our industry responded to the president’s clarion call on climate by commercializing the lowest carbon fuels in the world,” he said, “only to be blindsided with a proposal to weaken the RFS [renewable fuel standard] midstream.”

The oil industry has also opposed the targets, arguing that refiners would be required to breach the “blend wall,” the term given to the technical limit to the amount of ethanol that can be used in fueling infrastructure, to comply.

EPA has defended the proposal as striking a balance between growth in the biofuels industry and real-world market constraints. The agency is poised to release a final rule setting the renewable fuel mandates by Nov. 30.