Iowa, Mo. governors push for stronger RFS rule

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

The governors of Iowa and Missouri this week urged U.S. EPA to set robust renewable fuel targets while touting the success of the biofuels industries in their states.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Govs. Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa and Jay Nixon (D) of Missouri also criticized the agency’s current proposal to set targets for ethanol and advanced biofuels for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

EPA’s proposal calls for year-over-year increases in refiners’ requirements to use the fuels but falls short of the levels that Congress anticipated when it passed the renewable fuel standard into law in 2007. Both biofuel producers and refiners have opposed the rule, which EPA is aiming to finalize by Nov. 30.

“The ultimate losers under the proposed rule will be American consumers, farmers and alternative fuels, especially advanced fuels like biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol,” the governors wrote in their letter.

The bipartisan duo have been among the forefront of advocates for the biofuels industry as EPA shapes its renewable fuel requirements rule.

In June, the two governors spoke at a public hearing held by EPA on its proposal in Kansas City, Kan., along with participating in a “Rally for Rural America” outside the hearing location. Branstad has also recently visited advanced biofuel facilities and spoke at a gas station selling gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, or E15.

Iowa is the nation’s top ethanol-producing state, and Missouri its 12th. Both governors hold top positions in the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition — Branstad is the coalition’s current chairman and Nixon its vice chairman.

In their letter this week, Branstad and Nixon pushed back against EPA arguments that the proposal is “ambitious but within reach.”

“A target that hovers barely above production is certainly not ‘ambitious,'” the governors wrote, “and stifles any notion by investors that the United States is a welcoming growth market for renewable fuels.”

They warned that advanced biofuels industries would “feel the first cuts and most deeply.”

EPA’s proposal comes as three big cellulosic ethanol plants are ramping up operations in the Midwest to make ethanol out of plant materials other than corn. POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC and Abengoa Bioenergy last year opened plants in Iowa and Kansas, respectively, while DuPont Industrial Biosciences is aiming to open a plant in Iowa later this year.

“Big ethanol companies will hesitate to build another cellulosic plant in the United States” if EPA finalizes its proposal, the governors said. “Instead, they will look to China, South America and other regions that have stable biofuel policies.”

The companies have recently made similar threats.

“POET — one of the world’s largest investors in cellulosic biofuels — expects to stop all future U.S. cellulosic investments if EPA’s proposed base renewable fuel requirements are not strengthened,” POET wrote in comments this week to the agency.

EPA is sifting through hundreds of thousands of comments on its proposal and yesterday affirmed that the targets would be finalized by Nov. 30 (Greenwire, July 28).