Legislative Moves to Boost Biofuels

Source: By Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy Editor • Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A pair of Midwest senators on Monday reintroduced their bill to create an infrastructure grant program for renewable fuels and eliminate some labeling requirements from EPA on E15 labeling.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, had introduced the “Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act” in the last Congress, but reintroduced the bill in the current Congress. While the bill would unlikely pass as a stand-alone piece, the legislation provides a marker of support for renewable-fuel infrastructure, especially if Congress is able to advance a broad infrastructure package this year.

The bill would allow $500 million over five years in grants for fuel retailers to install blender pumps and other renewable-fuel infrastructure needs. The bill also would direct EPA to finalize a rule repealing EPA’s current labeling requirements for 15% ethanol blends. The senators said EPA’s current labeling rules “may confuse or deter drivers from using E15.” Under the bill, EPA also would have to finalize a rule allowing certain underground tanks to store higher blends of ethanol.

“Diversifying our fuel supply and introducing higher blends of biofuels in the market are great steps forward as we work to promote clean energy technologies and invest in transportation infrastructure,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will make cleaner fuels more accessible – ultimately benefiting both the economy and the environment.”

“I’ve long been pushing to expand infrastructure for high blends of biofuel, like E15, which is critical for Iowa’s economy. This bipartisan effort will help advance the deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure and provide consumers across Iowa and the country with greater access to cleaner, more affordable choices at the pump,” Ernst said.

Biofuel groups praised the senators for the bill. Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said the two senators “are demonstrating the kind of bipartisan leadership necessary to ensure biofuels play a leading role in helping the U.S. achieve net-zero emissions by midcentury.” Jennings also noted that electric vehicles are getting a lot of attention, but electric vehicles alone will not move the economy to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“A recent study by Harvard validates what ACE has been saying for years; today’s corn ethanol is nearly 50 percent cleaner than gasoline. This vital legislation would ensure infrastructure parity for biofuels and EVs and help ethanol continue to be part of the solution to climate change,” Jennings said.

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the bill would “greatly expand” low-carbon renewable fuels such ethanol, leading to “cleaner air, lower fuel prices and a more vibrant rural economy.”

Cooper added, “We know retailers want to offer smarter fuel options to their customers, but antiquated regulatory burdens often prevent them from moving ahead. This legislation would ensure that overly restrictive provisions are streamlined or removed, allowing small businesses across the nation to provide cleaner and more affordable options to American drivers.”

Separately, Growth Energy and the ethanol producers POET each also praised a state bill introduced in Iowa that would include offering E15 statewide by 2025 and increasing the E15 promotional tax credit to 3-cents a gallon year-round. Growth years stated that over five years, the bill would boost ethanol demand by more than 117 million gallons. Emily Skor, Growth Energy’s CEO, pointed to the same study as Jennings did for transitioning to higher ethanol blends.

“A recently released study if the United States transitioned from E10 to E15, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be lowered by 17.62 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing approximately 3.85 million vehicles from the road. Iowa’s E15 goals will not only offer a more affordable fuel alternative to drivers but will also play a large part in our country’s efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector.”

Harvard study on carbon intensity of corn ethanol https://iopscience.iop.org/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@DTN.com

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