Subpanel to hear industry input on fuel production, use

Source: Jason Plautz, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, July 9, 2012

A House subcommittee will consider the industry’s response to a series of federal programs designed to promote alternative fuels, including the controversial renewable fuel standard, promotion of flex-fuel vehicles and tax credits for electric vehicles.

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hear from groups representing the auto industry, biofuels groups and other alternative fuel promoters. Gulf Oil CEO Joseph Petrowski will also testify before the committee.

According to a background memo posted on the committee website, the subcommittee will look at the “potential benefits as well as economic and technological obstacles” of alternative transportation energy sources, including biofuels, electricity, natural gas and methanol. That will include discussion of not only what infrastructure and supply is needed to promote alternatives but also the impact on fuel costs and the economy.

A separate hearing for administration officials — including witnesses from U.S. EPA, the Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration — is scheduled for July 17.

In a hearing last year on administration policies for alternative vehicles, subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) cautioned against intervention in the marketplace. “False starts” in the industry since the 1970s, he said, served as a “sobering reminder that we need to carefully review our efforts” on promoting alternative fuels.

Among the topics that will be discussed is the renewable fuel standard (RFS), which set a goal of using 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels domestically by 2022. The Energy and Commerce Committee has been critical of the RFS in the past, and there have been questions about whether it is possible to meet the fuel goals under the RFS due to limited production.

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said that he will testify in support of the RFS, which he said is a productive policy that was written with enough flexibility to allow EPA to adjust as necessary. Dinneen said one of his goals will be to “keep things a little bit in perspective” on RFS and ethanol issues.

Shane Karr, vice president of federal government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, will represent the auto industry on the panel. According to excerpts from his testimony, Karr will tell the subcommittee that “legislation mandating a particular vehicle technology or fuel or set of fuels would be a mistake.” Automakers do back alternative fuel technology but have often urged the government to let the market dictate the best course of action.

The subcommittee will also consider the proliferation of flex-fuel vehicles, which Karr says in his testimony are a “important and worthwhile technology” with immediate potential. However, fueling infrastructure that can supply E85 to the vehicles is limited, and sales of the fuel have been lackluster. Flex Fuel U.S. CEO Don Althoff will also testify on the topic.

The subcommittee will also call witnesses with expertise on electric vehicles, methanol and natural gas.

The hearing is the 23rd of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s series on the American Energy Initiative.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, July 10, at 10 a.m. in 2322 Rayburn.

 Witnesses: Cumberland Gulf Group CEO Joseph Petrowski, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, Renewable Fuels Association President Robert Dinneen, American Tradition Institute Executive Director Thomas Tanton, Advanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams, Truman National Security Project Vice President Michael Breen, Methanol Institute Executive Director Gregory Dolan, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Shane Karr, Flex Fuel U.S. CEO Donald Althoff, America’s Natural Gas Alliance Vice President of Policy Development and Legislative Affairs Thomas Hassenboehler and Electric Drive Transportation Association Chairwoman MaryAnn Wright.