The ethanol industry has had a profitable year despite the jump in corn prices , but the industry faces a slew of headwinds, including overcapacity and political pressure to cut generous incentives.

Source: Jason Plautz • E & E  • Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011

Oil and gas industry officials will discuss the consequences of federal mandates for motor fuel contents and performance before the House Science Committee this week.

A Wednesday hearing in the Energy and Environment Subcommittee will focus on the “conflicts and unintended consequences of motor fuel standards.” On hand will be several officials from the gas industry, including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, to discuss the impact of fuel standards.

Also testifying will be Ingrid Burke, who recently co-authored a National Research Council report questioning whether the United States could meet a mandate to boost the use of biofuels as laid out in the renewable fuel standard. According to the report, the RFS also carries environmental and economic risks that could inadvertently drive up the cost of fuel (Greenwire, Oct. 4).

The oft-criticized RFS requires that 36 billion gallons of fuel come from alternative sources by 2022: 16 billion from cellulosic biofuels, 15 billion from conventional or corn-grain ethanol, 4 billion from advanced renewable biofuels and 1 billion from biomass-based diesel. Many lawmakers, including Science Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas), have questioned the nation’s ability to meet those figures and whether it would have an impact on corn supplies or agricultural production.

Margo Oge, director of U.S. EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, will defend the administration’s policies. The panel will also hear from Jack Huttner, an official with the biofuels firm Gevo Inc.

A spokesman for the Science Committee said the hearing will give members a chance to explore whether the standards “could affect the fungibility, safe use or affordability of the United States’ motor fuel supply.” In previous hearings, subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) has questioned the administration’s push to increase the ethanol blend in gasoline, saying the proposed E15 standard could be dangerous to consumers.

Hall has also spoken out on several occasions about the administration’s fossil fuel policy, criticizing the White House for directing more research money to alternative fuels (E&E Daily, March 4).

Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Brendan Williams, senior director of advocacy for the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association; Ingrid Burke, co-chair of the National Research Council committee on economic and environmental impacts of increasing biofuels production; Margo Oge, director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, U.S. EPA; Jay Kesan, program leader of the Biofuel Law & Regulation Program at the University of Illinois College of Law; Bob Greco, director of the downstream and industry operations group at the American Petroleum Institute; David Hilbert, thermodynamic development engineer for Mercury Marine; and Jack Huttner, executive vice president of commercial and public affairs for Gevo Inc.