Strange bedfellows urge permanent and deep cuts to ethanol mandate

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A wide-ranging coalition of interest groups is calling on House energy lawmakers to make significant and permanent cuts to the nation’s corn ethanol mandate as they work on legislation to reform the renewable fuel standard

The strange-bedfellow group of livestock, environmental, anti-poverty, small equipment manufacturer and right-leaning fiscal groups said yesterday that the federal ethanol requirement was hurting food producers, consumers and operators of small-engine vehicles.

Under the 2007 renewable fuel standard, refiners must blend 13.8 billion gallons of conventional ethanol into gasoline this year and 14.4 billion gallons next year — a little more than 10 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply.

“The mandate on corn-based ethanol in particular has had a devastating effect on the entire food economy from livestock and poultry producers facing record feed costs, to food retailers facing record food costs, to consumers here and abroad struggling to balance food budgets in tough economic times,” the groups said in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee members.

Members of the committee are drafting legislation to reform the standard after issuing a series of white papers and holding hearings earlier this year. Before the government shutdown, they were expected to roll out a bill this month. It’s unclear yet how the timeline is going to be affected, but players in the debate are continuing to meet regularly with the lawmakers.

The 44 groups yesterday applauded committee members for a “thoughtful and thorough” approach toward RFS reform. Most of the conversation, though, has so far revolved around the oil industry and its concerns about breaching the “blend wall,” or the technically feasible amount of ethanol that can be used in today’s infrastructure.

Biofuels producers argue that the standard has been vital to building up the nation’s domestic ethanol and advanced biofuels industries, improving rural economies and reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. They say that U.S. EPA has enough authority to make yearly adjustments to the standard and are advocating for no legislative changes.