Nebraska energy

Source: By Deb Fisher, U.S. Senate • Posted: Sunday, June 6, 2021

If you care about sustainability, I have good news: There are proven ways to make traditional energy better for the environment.

Gasoline mixed with ethanol has been shown to burn cleaner than normal gas, and corn-based ethanol lowers gasoline’s greenhouse gas emissions by 46%. Congress recognized ethanol’s importance to a greener world when it passed the Energy Policy Act in 2005. This bill authorized the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum amount of renewable fuels such as ethanol.

The Environmental Protection Agency enforces this by requiring fuel refiners and importers to blend a certain amount of biofuels into their products. If they don’t, they have to purchase credits to offset the extra emissions.

The EPA offers what are known as Small Refinery Exemptions, or SREs, which allow small refineries to not abide by this requirement if they can show that complying with it would cause them to suffer “disproportionate economic hardship.” This was intended to give small refiners more time to prepare for compliance, not to permanently exempt these facilities from the blending requirements. The SREs were also never intended to be used by large refineries as a way to avoid costs. Unfortunately, the EPA has allowed this to happen by granting SREs with little to no public transparency or congressional accountability.

I recently reintroduced the RFS Integrity Act with Senator Tammy Duckworth to address this problem. Our bipartisan bill would require companies to apply for exemptions before June 1 of the prior year, which would give the EPA enough time to account for them in the overall biofuel blending requirements they set each November. That would bring much-needed certainty to ethanol producers and corn farmers, many of whom call Nebraska home.

Our bill would also require the EPA to publish the name of every refinery granted an exemption, as well as the number of gallons of biofuels the EPA is allowing them to bypass, at the time the refinery is notified they have received a waiver. These two changes would bring transparency back to the SRE process and help it work as Congress intended.

Ethanol supports more than 1,400 Nebraska jobs and brings billions of dollars to our state every year. If the EPA doesn’t account for the exemptions it grants, our friends and neighbors who work in this vital industry are left with nowhere to sell their products, to say nothing of the added strain on the environment.

Also, in Nebraska we are hoping to grow a more robust biodiesel industry. That is why I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension Act. Led by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell, this legislation would extend the current federal biodiesel fuel tax credit through 2025. This extension would help ensure this industry can continue to grow in Nebraska and across the country.

All of these bipartisan proposals would uphold the integrity of the RFS and promote growth in key areas, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to advance them through the legislative process.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.