Pelosi calls ‘robust’ RFS key to curbing climate change

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, November 23, 2015

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expressing support for a strong federal renewable fuel standard, asking the White House in a letter yesterday to not limit ethanol requirements in a highly anticipated final rule for the biofuel program.

In the letter, the California Democrat joins House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa) in asking President Obama’s climate adviser, Brian Deese, to not keep biofuel blending requirements below a 10 percent ceiling known as the “blend wall.”

RFS foes say the blend wall removes the risks associated with increased ethanol levels in the fuel supply. U.S. EPA has approved blends of up to 15 percent in cars made in 2001 and newer, and some “flex-fuel” models can run on blends of up to 85 percent ethanol.

The letter also asks Deese to support changes in the final rule to reflect current ethanol export figures, as well as projected increases in gasoline demand.

“We view a robust renewable fuels rule as an opportunity to allow the agricultural and biotechnology communities a productive path to reduce oil dependence and vehicle pollution emissions, enhance our domestic energy security, and address climate change,” the letter states.

Groups on both sides of the biofuel debate have centered their talking points on climate change and the role plant-based fuels play in reducing carbon emissions, as Obama prepares to travel to Paris for a pivotal U.N. climate conference late this month.

The Renewable Fuels Association, the main ethanol trade group in Washington, D.C., released an analysis this morning finding that the RFS in its current form has reduced 354 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases since 2008. The RFS was originally enacted in 2005 and expanded with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which set a schedule for increasing the production of biofuels to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022.

The letter comes as the American Council for Capital Formation — an opponent of the mandate — wages a state-by-state campaign to discredit the RFS on climate grounds. The campaign centers on doubts raised by scientists on the currently used life-cycle analyses for assessing a biofuel’s carbon intensity, particularly corn ethanol. ACCF recently expanded the campaign to California, Pelosi’s home state.

“It’s really just a bizarre position for her to take, especially given where her constituents are on this issue and the fact that Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.] is working so hard on the other side to end these indefensible corn mandates and protect California consumers and the environment,” said Matt Dempsey with the Center for Regulatory Solutions, which targeted several of the same states in which ACCF ran ads.

Sources have pointed to Nov. 30, the legal deadline, as a likely release day for the final rule, though the regulation could land as soon as Wednesday — the day before Thanksgiving.