Op-Ed: Cruz scapegoating the renewable fuels standard

Source: By Bob Dinneen, San Antonio Post Express News • Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018

  • A DuPont ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, in January. The ethanol industry continues to make strides in providing the U.S. and the world with renewable energy. Photo: Luke Sharrett /Bloomberg / © 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP
Photo: Luke Sharrett /Bloomberg
A DuPont ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, in January. The ethanol industry continues to make strides in providing the U.S. and the world with renewable energy.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently took to the Senate floor to object to a unanimous consent agreement that would have allowed a confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s choice to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, a critical post as Congress begins deliberations on the farm bill’s reauthorization.

Cruz objected to the motion, not because he thinks Bill Northey is not qualified for the position; he agrees Northey is a terrific person, but because he wants to use the leverage of holding up Northey to force changes to an energy program completely unrelated to USDA.

He wants to see changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, a program requiring refiners to blend an increasing amount of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel into gasoline that is enforced by EPA, not USDA.

Not only is the senator wrong to hold one of President Trump’s nominees hostage, he is wrong in his continued criticism of the RFS. Sen. Cruz believes the RFS disadvantages independent refiners by requiring them to purchase credits when they choose not to blend the amount of renewable fuels the law requires. Cruz points to the recent bankruptcy filing of a Pennsylvania refinery as evidence of the program’s failure. But that refinery is the oldest in the country; it suffers from antiquated technology; is captive to higher priced imported crude oil; and has made a series of poor business decisions leaving it vulnerable to the highly volatile credit market.

It is certainly not a good poster child for RFS reform. It’s a poster child for gross mismanagement.

Cruz needs to stop scapegoating the RFS because a few refiners don’t like the program. Renewable fuels like ethanol are not the enemy. Indeed, renewable fuels hold the key to a more sustainable energy future that will provide consumers with both choice and savings at the pump.

Ethanol is a high-octane blend component that is cleaner and cheaper than gasoline. Ethanol might actually extend the market for liquid transportation fuels in this country as gasoline and ethanol blends represent a consumer and environmentally friendly alternative to electric vehicles.

This week, more than 1,000 energy experts from across the globe will descend on San Antonio for the 23rd annual National Ethanol Conference. The conference will celebrate groundbreaking achievements and outline future challenges the renewable fuels industry will face.

Despite the unrelenting attacks from opponents, the ethanol industry is achieving success on a widespread scale. Major achievements from the past year include breaking all domestic blending records, with the national blend levels breaching 10 percent above the so-called blend wall. In addition, the renewable fuel industry helps rural economies thrive despite record low commodity prices, protects public health, improves the environment, and provides consumers savings at the pump.

All this is made possible due to the RFS, a hallmark of President George W. Bush’s energy policy. President Trump has also recognized the importance of the ethanol industry, reaffirming his support for ethanol and the RFS time and time again as he works to achieve energy dominance for the United States.

So, what do you think, Sen. Cruz? Isn’t it time to free Bill Northey and work toward expanding the use of renewable fuels, not toward protecting companies that have failed to keep pace with America’s energy future?

Bob Dinneen is president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.