Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, along with farmers and others representing Iowa agriculture and the state's renewable fuels industry, delivered a clear message to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at an EPA hearing in Kansas City on June 25: Don't reduce the amount of renewable fuels required to be blended in the nation's gasoline and diesel fuel supply.
Following up on his testimony in Kansas City, Branstad spoke at his July 6 press conference at the state capitol in Des Moines, about what's at stake in the Renewable Fuel Standard debate.
At the June 25 hearing, EPA heard from Iowans and others on the proposed changes to the RFS, released by EPA on May 29. EPA wants to lower the RFS biofuel requirements set by Congress by 4 billion gallons this year and 5 billion gallons next year.
Higher RFS volumes are needed for several reasons
EPA is proposing a 2015 RFS volume obligation of 16.3 billion gallons, which is below the 20.5 billion gallons Congress required when it wrote the RFS law in 2007. The 2017 RFS volume obligation proposed by EPA is 17.4 billion gallons -- also well below the 22.3 billion gallons required by Congress.
Over 250 people testified at the hearing, taking turns reading prepared three-minute statements. That event in Kansas City is the only public hearing EPA plans to hold before making a decision in November on the RFS program. EPA says it is reducing the volumes because infrastructure inadequacies limit how much ethanol and biodiesel can be consumed and because the industry isn't able to produce enough non-ethanol fuels to meet the requirements.
However, corn growers and other supporters of the RFS say the higher volumes are needed to force oil companies to improve infrastructure and the number of blender pumps at retail fuel stations to deliver ethanol blends above the current 10% mix.
Don't protect Big Oil and its monopoly practices
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whose state is the nation's top corn and ethanol producer, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, both spoke against EPA's proposed lower standards. "The EPA has a choice: protect the deep pockets of Big Oil and their monopolistic practices or nurture consumer choice, renewable energy growth, and a healthy rural economy," Branstad testified.
Branstad, a Republican, noted the price of corn has fallen from $6 a bushel in August 2013 to $3.45 a bushel now. He said EPA's indecision on the RFS has created uncertainty in the market and stifled investment in technology to deliver biofuels. Missouri's Nixon, a Democrat, questioned EPA's authority to lower the RFS standards. "The federal Renewable Fuel Standard allows a waiver only if it will harm the economy or the environment," said Nixon. "I'm not seeing how it's going to hurt our economy to produce cheaper, better, cleaner fuel, and it's certainly not going to hurt our environment."
EPA making a big mistake proposing to reduce RFS
Branstad adds, "My hope is EPA is open to improving its proposal and meeting the original congressional intent of significantly expanding the use of biofuels throughout the country."
The Iowa governor says EPA is using the lack of infrastructure and lack of blender pumps as an excuse to set the biofuel levels lower than originally mandated. EPA shouldn't call the difficulties associated with blending higher than 10% blends of ethanol a "blend wall" and then call that a supply issue. The renewable fuels industry has more than enough capacity to produce in excess of the volumes specifically laid out in the RFS law.
"Unless EPA advances a robust RFS, they will constrain growth in the rural economy, negatively impacting family farms, agribusiness and the biofuels industries, and hurt the citizens and businesses that are part of our nation's rural fabric," says Branstad. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey also made that point in the testimony he delivered to EPA.
Cleaner burning biofuels offer choice at the pump
EPA's inaction is slowing progress in the country. "Congress and the president agree on the importance of an aggressive energy policy resulting in a cleaner environment and more American-produced energy," says Northey. "Yet through EPA's inaction, EPA has slowed this progress. Now, with EPA's proposed lower RFS levels, our nation would take a step backward in those efforts."
Clean-burning biofuels produced in the U.S. provide consumers with another option at the pump, and lowering RFS volume targets would be the wrong move, says Northey. The RFS has already met and surpasses all of its intended goals, and EPA should continue to follow the volumes specified in the law. "We should not cave in to those who want to close off competition by blocking market access and limiting consumer choice for fuel. EPA needs to uphold the intent of the RFS and revise the proposed rule."
Fuels America highlights "Rally for Rural America"
Fuels America, a biofuel advocacy organization, is sponsoring ads and online information driving home the message that America's Heartland strongly supports policies that strengthen rural economies and don't put foreign oil interests ahead of rural America.
The sponsorship comes on the heels of the June 25 EPA hearing in Kansas City, where hundreds of corn and soybean growers and other renewable fuel supporters testified, calling on EPA to maintain the congressional intent of the RFS. Biofuel advocates, farmers and others also hosted a Rally for Rural America in a nearby park that same day to speak out against EPA's decision to put the oil industry ahead of rural America by slashing billions of gallons in biofuels from the RFS. Over 450 people attended the rally. Here are the messages the Fuels America campaign is delivering:
The Renewable Fuel Standard is working. Governors, farmers, small business owners, investors, students and families from across the Midwest sent a clear message to EPA: The Renewable Fuel Standard is working for Rural America. The RFS is supporting over 850,000 jobs in the U.S. and is strengthening rural economies. EPA should not choose foreign oil over American workers. The RFS works for Rural America, visit fuels.america.org to learn more.
EPA's proposed changes to the RFS. The proposed lower volumes for the RFS would strengthen the oil industry's monopoly over the gas pump and put American family farmers, workers and rural economies at risk. After 10 years, the RFS is helping family farmers and American innovators power a clean, secure domestic energy future for our nation. We can't afford to turn back on that progress now.
Tell EPA what you think. You can submit formal comments to EPA using the Growth Energy Action Center. EPA's deadline for accepting formal comments on its proposed RFS changes is July 27.