Kyle Nixon: EPA biofuels rule could hurt economy

Source: By Kyle Nixon, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The author is the general manager of the Novozymes facility in Blair, Nebraska.

At the end of November the Environmental Protection Agency is due to issue the final rule on the amount of renewable biofuels that will be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

The initial proposal, which was issued back in May, was a step backward for the economy and a threat to future investments.

Biofuels blending volumes are set by the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which was signed into law 10 years ago. Each year the EPA is required to issue regulations that turn those volumes into a percentage of the fuel supply. As you have probably noticed at the gas pump, most of our fuel supply now contains 10 percent ethanol.

The latest EPA proposal, however, sets the blending below the levels dictated by the law. If that change is finalized, that flawed proposal will undermine significant economic success.

Ever since the RFS was passed, companies like Novozymes have been investing in renewable fuels. We are a global biotechnology company and we supply the enzymes that help prepare biomass for the biofuels industry.

Since 2005, we have invested $500 million in technology, facilities and people to move the biofuels industry forward. We spent $200 million to build our plant in Blair, which opened in 2012 and now employs more than 100 people.

I am the general manager of the Novozymes facility in Blair, and I’ve seen firsthand the economic benefits of the RFS for Nebraska. According to the trade group Fuels America, the renewable fuels industry supports more than 850,000 jobs nationally, paying $46.2 billion in wages and $14.5 billion in taxes each year.

Instead of sending money to overseas oil producers, the biofuels sector has provided financial stability for rural farming communities right here at home.

It also has produced returns for the environment. In the 10 years since it was enacted, the RFS has reduced U.S. carbon emissions by 590 million metric tons by pushing gasoline out of the fuel supply. That’s like removing 124 million cars from the road.

But the law has been so successful that the oil industry is pushing back. Afraid of losing market share, the oil industry has attacked the RFS and attempted to influence the EPA’s administration of the law. Unfortunately that strategy resulted in the recent EPA proposal that would reduce the amount of blended renewable fuels.

Novozymes invested and innovated because of the RFS. Our workforce is here, in Blair, because of the RFS. We want to invest more, but the instability of this policy is putting the brakes on a fast-growing industry. In June, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts visited our global headquarters in Denmark and heard about the challenge of investing with an unpredictable policy.

“They are looking at all their investments in light of the EPA decision,” he said. “When the EPA changes the rules, it creates uncertainty and hampers job creation.”

Novozymes believed that the EPA would follow the letter of the law. Now EPA officials are pulling the rug out from under the biofuels industry and betraying hardworking Americans and the communities that have built this industry.

The final rule is due on Nov. 30. Between now and then the EPA has a chance to stand up for American workers and farmers, follow the law, and get this policy right.

The EPA can still keep our government’s promise and drive a great economic success story.