Lawmakers push EPA to lower country’s ethanol mandate

Source: by Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013

A bipartisan coalition of 169 lawmakers pleaded with the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday to lower the country’s ethanol mandate.

In a four-paragraph letter, the lawmakers mostly from outside of corn and ethanol-producing areas, said the Renewable Fuel Standard — a law that requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other products to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy – has lead to volatile corn prices and prompted farmers to grow crops on millions of acres of sensitive wetlands and grasslands.

Representatives from Texas, California, Florida and Pennsylvania were among the most prominent signers of the letter sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

The House lawmakers also cited the problem of the blend wall — a level where refiners must include more ethanol into the country’s fuel mix than can be blended in at a 10 percent threshold accepted in all cars and trucks. As consumers drive less and car’s become more fuel efficient, it’s become harder to meet the blend wall without using a higher blend of ethanol, something refiners and car companies are unwilling to do because they fear the fuel could damage the automobile.

“While the blendwall is a pressing issue, the federal government can help avoid a dangerous economic situation by adjusting the normally rigid Renewable Fuel Standard mandate down to align with gasoline market conditions and realities,” the lawmakers said. We “urge the EPA to consider a fair and meaningful nationwide adjustment to the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Washington lawmakers have proposed legislation to change the mandate. One bill would ban any fuel blends with more than 10 percent ethanol. Still, it appears unlikely the bills will gain meaningful traction in Congress this year. Iowa is the country’s largest ethanol producer with 41 plants capable of producing more than 3.7 billion gallons annually.

The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply in 2014 — a figure the oil industry would like the EPA to lower to 14.8 billion gallons.

The EPA, which oversees the mandate, has indicated it will propose reducing the country’s ethanol mandate in 2014, acknowledging that the increasing levels laid out by Congress in 2007 are unrealistic. The agency is expected to release the proposed 2014 figures in the next few weeks.