RFS rumors sparking concerns from Congressional members

Source: By Jacqui Fatka, Farm Progress • Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Letters to President Biden detail harm that could come from potential biofuels demand destruction of 5 billion gallons.

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Congressional members from both sides of the aisle are reminding President Joe Biden about his past promises to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard as rumors continue to float about significantly lower RFS mandated volumes in the years ahead.

Recent reports indicate the Biden administration is taking steps to lower the renewable volume obligations, or RVOs, which would reduce the demand for biofuels, an action President Biden strongly condemned under the Trump administration.

Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., led a bicameral group of Congressional members spanning seven states in a letter urging the administration to increase biofuels usage and reject any reduction in biofuel blending requirements.

“Specifically, we have strong reservations about the potential for the Administration to destroy over 5 billion gallons of biofuel volume from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 RVOs. This action would directly undermine your commitment to address climate change and restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” the members wrote.

“Rather than exempting refiners of their obligations under the Clean Air Act, we urge the administration to provide additional certainty and stability to the renewable fuels marketplace by issuing strong RVOs for 2021 and 2022 and declining to remand any gallons from the 2020 RVO. These actions will create jobs, drive American investment and cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector,” the Democrat members explain.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., Bobby Rush, D-Ill., David Scott, D-Ga., Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and Ron Kind, D-Wisc., and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

House Biofuels Caucus Co-Chairs Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Adrian Smith, R-Neb., along with Reps. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., and Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, led a letter along with 16 of their colleagues to urge President Biden to uphold campaign promises.

The House Biofuels Caucus members explain that during Biden’s presidency campaign in September 2015, he said that former President Donald J. Trump “could have made explicit his imperative to stand with American farmers by reversing harmful waivers and setting strong levels for 2021.” And yet, the House Republicans shared that the “forthcoming RVO will cut the demand for more combined gallons of ethanol than all gallons cut due to small refinery exemptions issued by the prior administration.”

The House Biofuels Caucus letter continues: “If your administration makes the unprecedented move to reopen the finalized 2020 RVO, and strip the demand for billions of gallons, the industry will certainly be devastated. As you stated, ‘Lip service won’t make up for nearly four years of retroactive damage that’s decimated our trade economy and forced ethanol plants to shutter.’ If these rumors are correct, demand for over 5 billion gallons of renewable, clean fuels will be lost.”

The Republican members continue, “Given the challenges facing our farmers from all sides on this issue, it is imperative that your Administration choose to stand with American farmers. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that our biofuels producers are once again prioritized through a strong RVO, and that the law is upheld.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper thanked the Congressional members for encouraging the administration to support biofuels.

“As the U.S. EPA prepares to roll out proposed renewable volume obligations for 2021 and 2022, rumors are circulating about massive cuts that will even reach back to 2020’s volumes, which were settled back in 2019 and automatically adjusted based on lower volumes during the pandemic,” Cooper says. “If true, these reduced volumes will be devasting for the ethanol industry and rural America—and slow down the goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions as low-carbon biofuels are replaced by more fossil fuels.”

Copper says if EPA proceed with this action, it will directly undermine the administration’s commitment to address climate change and restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Every gallon of biofuels that is blended into our nation’s fuel supply displaces a gallon of oil and cuts carbon emissions. Reducing biofuel blending requirements will increase greenhouse gas emissions,” Cooper adds. “In fact, the new, lower volumes, if true, would increase GHG emissions by up to 15.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.”