Senate panel rejects ethanol amendment by 15-7 vote

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015

The latest attempt to overhaul the country’s ethanol mandate failed Thursday, but the reason for the failure depends on whom you ask.

The Senate Banking Committee voted 15-7 to oppose an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would end the corn component of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Other attempts in Congress to end or significantly change the mandate have failed to gain momentum.

Critics of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which outlines how much alternative fuels need to be blended into cars, trucks and other vehicles, said it was doomed because the lawmakers tried to include it in legislation that would authorize widespread oil exports.

“The underlying legislation to which the amendment would have to be attached is controversial, and resulted in an amendment vote that is not reflective of senators’ true views on the ethanol mandate,” said RFS Off the Menu. The group’s members include the North American Meat Institute, the National Retail Federation and the American Beverage Association.

But supporters of the mandate said the vote was indicative of lawmakers who remain committed to the mandate — popular in Iowa and other ethanol-producing states.

“Fifteen senators sent a strong message to the rest of the Senate: The RFS works,” said Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association. This “amendment would have taken away consumers’ choices at the gas pump, increased our dependence on foreign oil, and left farmers and renewable fuel producers with less certainty in the energy market.”

Iowa produced a record 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014, about 27 percent of the country’s production.