Ethanol and biodiesel supporters have come out swinging to defend their industry. They are mounting an all-out effort to try to persuade the Obama Administration to reverse its proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it wants to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol required to be mixed into the nation's gasoline supply in 2014. Iowa, the leading state in production of biofuels, has a lot at stake.
Iowa farm groups, state political leaders, and the ethanol and biodiesel industry have united to form the Iowa RFS Coalition. They face a daunting task in trying to get EPA to backtrack on its recently announced decision to propose reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Iowa coalition along with other ethanol advocates across the nation must rebuff a powerful lobbying campaign funded by the oil industry which is pushing EPA to lower or eliminate the RFS mandate. Also, some members of Congress say they support reducing or even completely doing away with the RFS.
EPA wants to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard; Iowa officials speak out against the EPA proposal
On November 15, EPA released its proposal to cut by 3 billion gallons the amount of renewable fuels that would be blended into the U.S. fuel supply in 2014. The proposal includes reducing the use of corn-based ethanol by 1.4 billion gallons. One week later, on November 22, the Iowa RFS Coalition held a "Defend the RFS" rally at Lincolnway Energy, an ethanol plant at Nevada, Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Congressman Steve King and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley were among a number of speakers at the "Defend the RFS" event. They said they will fight EPA's decision, including challenging it in court, if necessary. The proposal to reduce the RFS is open to a 60-day public comment period. Thus, opponents of the EPA proposal have 60 days to try to convince EPA to reverse its decision. After gathering comments, EPA is expected to make a final decision and finalize the rule sometime in spring 2014.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced they've launched a website. The site allows visitors to sign a petition urging EPA "to reverse its ill-advised rule aimed at eroding the RFS," said Branstad. Comments people submit to the site will be sent to EPA.
Reduction in ethanol mandate would help "Big Oil," and harm Iowans, says Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad
"This issue is critical for our state and its future," Branstad told the crowd of about 150 ethanol supporters gathered at the Lincolnway event, which was open to the public. "The biofuels industry is the livelihood of our people. This is about the profitability of our farmers. This is about quality jobs throughout our state, and it is absolutely wrong for the EPA to cave in to Big Oil."
The oil industry praised the EPA proposal last week, saying EPA for the first time has acknowledged the "blend wall." That is, the limitations on the nation's ability to push consumption of ethanol beyond the E10 or 10% ethanol blend with gasoline, which is now used by most motorists. Increasing the amount of ethanol used per year would require increased use of higher blends such as E15. Automobile manufacturers say E15 and higher blends could damage vehicle engines, but the ethanol industry disputes that.
Eric Hakmiller, CEO of Lincolnway Energy, called EPA's proposal to cut the RFS "misguided and based on old data." If the EPA decision to reduce the RFS is allowed to go into effect, it will affect consumers in the form of higher fuel prices, he said. "Now is the time to stand together and push back against Big Oil, to push back against a future that would have higher gasoline prices, more foreign oil and more dependence on other nations for our energy supply."
Economic vitality, energy independence and investment in next-generation renewable fuels are all at risk
Branstad, Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Iowa, the nation's largest producer of renewable fuel, could see job reductions with a lower renewable fuel standard. In addition to Iowa's 42 corn grain ethanol plants and 12 biodiesel plants, three cellulosic ethanol plants are under construction, including a $200 million facility DuPont is building next to Lincolnway Energy. The DuPont plant, scheduled to be completed during the summer of 2014, will use cornstalks, cobs and crop residue to produce cellulosic ethanol.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"The renewable fuel industry provides good-paying, vital jobs in communities all across our state," said Branstad. "It supports our communities and rural way of life. Many, many Iowans who live in these local communities have bought shares and invested their money in these plants." Branstad told the crowd gathered at the rally that he personally invested in Lincolnway Energy before becoming Iowa's governor for a second time.
Grassley: "We will battle this EPA proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard"
Troy Wilson, a DuPont executive, also spoke at the event. Wilson said EPA's decision to propose reducing the RFS makes it "much more difficult to commit dollars for the next generation of biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol."
Grassley admitted it's going to be difficult to fight the American Petroleum Institute's lobbying effort against ethanol and biodiesel. The API made repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard a top priority of its lobbying efforts for 2013. Through the end of October, the oil and gas industry had spent $105 million on all of its lobbying. Grassley is hopeful, however. "We have to remember that it was U.S. farmers who stepped up to develop the biofuels industry in the years after oil embargoes and our dependence on foreign oil had put the U.S. in a stranglehold," Grassley pointed out. "We are going to battle this EPA proposal to reduce the RFS."