Petroleum industry launches ads targeting the RFS

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015

The American Petroleum Institute yesterday launched a new advertising campaign targeting the renewable fuel standard as the Obama administration works to finalize new standards for refiners.

The ads highlight criticism of corn ethanol by anti-hunger and environmental groups and RFS opposition from newspaper editorials and lawmakers from both parties.

The Washington, D.C., campaign comprises television, radio and online ads and will run through the next month.

“Our ads will focus on the negative consequences higher ethanol mandates can have on consumers,” Bob Greco, API’s downstream director, told reporters today.

Congress enacted the current RFS in 2007 requiring refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and advanced biofuels into petroleum gasoline and diesel. The RFS called for 36 billions gallons of biofuels to be used annually by 2022 but gave U.S. EPA certain authorities to waive the yearly requirements.

EPA has said it would use its authority to lower the 2014, 2015 and 2016 mandates compared to the levels that Congress mandated in 2007.

But oil groups and other opponents of the RFS say that the agency’s targets still force them to blend infeasible amounts of ethanol into gasoline and are calling for even lower targets. Most gas stations currently sell gasoline mixed with 10 percent ethanol; EPA’s proposed target for 2016 would require that more than 10 percent ethanol be blended into gasoline.

Greco urged EPA to set new mandates for total ethanol through 2016 at no higher than 9.7 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply. He said the ad campaign was aimed specifically at the administration.

“EPA seems poised to continue their heedless rush to raise ethanol volumes regardless of cost, market demand or vehicle compatibility,” he said.

Greco said that the campaign’s cost was “significant” but did not give a specific number.

Biofuel producers and supporters, on the other hand, have called for EPA to set final targets that mirror congressional levels. EPA has defended its proposal, calling it ambitious but cognizant of market realities that restrict more ethanol from being blended into the fuel system.

EPA has maintained that the final rule will be completed by a Nov. 30 deadline set in a settlement with API and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

But Greco expressed concerns about the Obama administration being able to hit that deadline, noting that the rule is a big undertaking — the agency received more than 670,000 comments — and that the Paris climate change negotiations kick off on Nov. 30.

“I think it’s going to be a real challenge for this administration,” he said.

EPA has not yet sent over its final standards to the White House for the Office of Management and Budget to review.

As API focused its efforts on Washington, biofuel supporters continue their campaign to rally support for the RFS in Iowa ahead of the presidential candidates.

America’s Renewable Future, a coalition backed by ethanol interests and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), today released a minutelong video in support of the RFS. The video features Chris Soules, an Iowa farmer who recently starred on ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

“Choosing who to caucus for is a very important decision — especially for Iowa farmers,” Soules says in the video. “We need to know if the candidates support the RFS and if they’ll defend this industry for farmers like me.”