Upton taps 4 Republicans to lead RFS reform

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has tapped four Republican members to lead his committee in exploring modifications to the renewable fuel standard.

Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) will head efforts to author some sort of legislation to address issues that stakeholders have raised with the 5-year-old mandate, committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker said. There is no timetable yet for advancing any proposals.

Over the past several months, Energy and Commerce Committee members have collected responses from stakeholders to a wide array of questions on the standard, which mandates that refiners blend 36 billion gallons of biofuel a year into the nation’s fuel supply by 2022.

At a two-day Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing last week, representatives from several sectors of the economy blamed the standard for high food prices, high fuel prices and risks to car engines.

Several lawmakers agreed at the hearings that a complete repeal of the standard — as oil interests are pushing for — is unlikely this year because of support for the standard in agricultural states. A reform proposal would be more realistic, though what form it will take is still unclear.

With both refiners and ethanol facilities in his district, Shimkus has emerged as one of the most vocal proponents of finding a solution that will appease not only oil interests but also the nation’s ethanol producers. Last week, he urged stakeholders to quit bickering and come to the table to find common ground.

“I’m standing squarely with a foot in both bodies, and it’s my goal and desire to get to a solution that benefits us all, not one side over the other,” Shimkus said (E&E Daily, July 24).

On the other side of the token, Scalise has pushed for full repeal of the standard. At a recent Republican Study Committee hearing designed to build the case for repeal, he said he was confident a repeal measure would gain enough support to pass the House.

H.R. 1461, a bipartisan repeal measure introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) earlier this year, currently has 48 co-sponsors. A similar bipartisan measure in the Senate sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), S. 1195, has 14 co-sponsors.

“When I talk to my colleagues who represent those districts that are heavy, intensive with farmers, that maybe today are benefiting from this monopoly that they have with the RFS, they recognize that this is unworkable,” said Scalise, who leads the committee. “They recognize that come next year, changes need to happen” (E&E Daily, July 18).

Biofuels producers, on the other hand, say the RFS has reduced foreign oil imports and helped spur an advanced biofuels market. They say changing the standard in any way could dim investment in next-generation fuels and set the country back on greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.

They’ve blamed big oil companies for skewing the debate over the standard to retain their own monopoly on the transportation fuel market.

“If Congress reduces or repeals the RFS, it rewards oil companies’ bad behavior, ensures they will control 90 percent or more of the gasoline market, and forces consumers to pay more for dirty fuel,” American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings said in comments filed Friday with the Energy and Commerce Committee.