Poll finds support for renewable fuels as Congress scrutinizes RFS

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013

A new poll conducted for a coalition of biofuels backers shows widespread support for renewable fuels among the American public.

The poll, released just hours before the House Energy and Commerce Committee prepares to dive into federal biofuels policy, found that 80 percent of respondents want the nation to use more renewables in its fuel makeup. About three-quarters of Americans support the renewable fuel standard, the 2007 policy that mandates the country blend 36 billion gallons a year of biofuels into motor fuel by 2022.

“What we found was that across the board there was strong support for increasing the use of renewable fuel in our country,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president in charge of the industrial and environmental section at the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Fuels America commissioned the poll from Research Now, an independent research company. The firm conducted interviews with 1,000 adults across the country between June 7 and June 12, asking each respondent several questions about gas prices, renewable fuels and policies. The survey had a 3.1-point margin of error.

According to the poll, support for renewable fuels was higher among respondents who identified themselves as environmentalists. Among that group, 90 percent of adults said they believed the country should be using more renewable fuel, while 82 percent supported the renewable fuel standard.

The poll found that backing for the renewable fuel standard spanned ideological boundaries. At 83 percent, liberals were most likely to support the RFS, but 60 percent of conservatives also said they supported the standard.

In all, 59 percent of people blamed the oil industry for high gas prices, and 69 percent of Americans said they believed replacing oil imports with renewable fuels was “critical” to national security.

The poll’s results come as the Energy and Commerce Committee is beginning a series of summer hearings on the renewable fuel standard (E&E Daily, June 24). Several oil, livestock, food and environmental groups are lobbying for either changes to or repeal of the standard, linking it to high gas prices, high food prices and uncertain environmental effects.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s largest trade group, said it was hosting refining executives today in Washington, D.C., for meetings with administration officials and lawmakers on the RFS. Jack Gerard, API’s president and CEO, said the group was pushing the administration to reduce the levels set in the standard and asking Congress to repeal it.

Legislation to repeal the standard has already been introduced in both the House and the Senate (E&E Daily, June 21).

“A growing chorus of concerned groups is urging Congress to repeal the renewable fuel standard before the mandate potentially puts consumers in harm’s way, hurts the economy and disrupts the nation’s fuel supply,” Gerard said. “The biofuels mandate was originally intended to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but increasing domestic production of oil is accomplishing that goal.”