Oil industry campaign warns against higher ethanol use

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oil industry lobbying shop American Petroleum Institute today announced a new ad campaign targeting the federal renewable fuel standard and U.S. EPA’s decision to expand the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline.

The group is launching television, radio and prints ads in several states across the country and inside the Beltway that feature a mechanic speaking about alleged pitfalls of using ethanol in cars. The mechanic warns of ethanol diverting crops from food production, lower mileage under engine blends and the possibility of car damage.

“Too much ethanol could cause engine damage that’s not covered under warranty, and that’s good news for me,” the mechanic says in the television ad. “Oh, and I take cash or check.”

The “Fuel for Thought” campaign comes as API is calling for the repeal of the renewable fuel standard, the 2007 policy that compels the country to blend 36 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and advanced biofuel into the nation’s motor fuel supply by 2022. The organization says the standard is “broken beyond repair” because it mandates higher ethanol levels than are safe for consumers.

The ads also coincide with a Senate hearing on gas prices tomorrow and come in the middle of a series of hearings in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the renewable fuel standard.

Bob Greco, API’s downstream group director, did not give a specific sum that the organization is spending on the ads but said they represented “significant resources.” The ads launched today are only the first in a series that API plans to roll out on the renewable fuel standard.

“These new ads will encourage more Americans to call the White House to fix the problem before it’s too late,” Greco told reporters on a conference call.

Greco said that the new campaign is being mostly driven by a desire to “get Congress to do something as soon as possible” and that the organization supports bills filed in both the House and Senate this year to completely repeal the standard.

Concurrently, API is pressuring EPA to fully waive this year’s requirements under the standard, which are set to be finalized this summer, as well as immediately reduce the total level of renewable fuels mandated by the standard to below 10 percent — the current norm in today’s gasoline market. API is meeting with the White House Office of Management and Budget next week to discuss this year’s final targets.

The ethanol industry immediately slammed the campaign and said the oil industry group was confusing debate about E15 — the 15 percent ethanol-gasoline blend that EPA recently approved — with the renewable fuel standard. E15 has been proved safe for car engines based on 6 million miles’ worth of testing by EPA and the Department of Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association said, and offers refiners a choice for meeting the biofuel targets in the RFS.

Big Oil’s latest campaign is nothing more than an oil slick of misleading scare tactics,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “What does it say about an industry so desperate to protect its monopoly that it distorts reality in a feeble effort to hoodwink consumers?”