We're nearly seven full months into 2014, and the amount of ethanol that is supposed to be blended into the nation's gasoline supply this year still has not been announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA is required by law to finalize the annual blending requirements for the RFS for the following year by Nov. 30, a deadline the agency hasn't met since 2011.
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in May the agency was reviewing more than 200,000 comments on its November proposal for 2014 that would cut the mandate from the level set by Congress in the 2007 RFS law, and was expecting to issue the final rule in "late spring or early summer."
Last November EPA proposed reducing ethanol produced from corn in 2014 to 13.01 billion gallons from 14.4 billion gallons initially required by Congress in the 2007 RFS, a law that requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other feedstocks to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.
Iowa officials call for action to restore a strong RFS
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on July 25 renewed their call for EPA to restore a robust Renewable Fuel Standard. The Iowa officials also called on EPA to abandon the proposed rule that would cost Iowans jobs, decrease consumer choice at the pump and increase our nation's dependency on foreign oil.
According to an Associated Press report, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said after meeting with White House officials that he believes the EPA will only partially restore the RFS volume obligation levels for 2014. On July 25, three top state leaders in Iowa issued statements on the EPA/RFS situation.
"While we're encouraged to see the potential for movement from the Obama Administration, we believe they need to act right away to fully restore a robust Renewable Fuel Standard. Because of the uncertainty at the federal level, corn is now selling below the cost of production," said Branstad. "State and federal officials have worked in a bipartisan manner on this critically important issue. I'm hopeful the EPA will act to protect Iowa jobs, rural development and Iowa agriculture."
Corn is selling below cost of production, don't cut RFS
"Now is not the time to retreat from a robust Renewable Fuel Standard that increases consumer choice, creates jobs, encourages economic growth and reduces our dependency on foreign oil," said Reynolds. "The people of Iowa and America have spoken clearly, protect the RFS and abandon the ill-advised EPA proposal today."
Northey added, "A strong RFS is vitally important to ensure Iowa customers have access to domestically produced, clean burning ethanol and biodiesel. The law is working as intended and it is wrong for the EPA to act against congressional intent. I hope the Obama administration will listen to the thousands of comments supporting access to renewable fuels and fully restore the RFS."
Highlights of Iowa leaders' engagement on the RFS include:
State and federal elected officials, including Gov. Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds, participated in a "Defend the RFS" event.
Gov. Branstad traveled to Washington, DC, joining a group of Iowa farmers and biofuels producers, to testify at the Federal government's only public hearing and met with EPA Administrator McCarthy.
Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds, Secretary Bill Northey and the entire Iowa congressional delegation sent a joint letter to Federal leaders advocating for the many benefits that flow from the RFS.
Gov. Terry Branstad and Gov. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) pen an op-ed in support of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard.
Gov. Terry Branstad brought together a bipartisan group of six governors to sign on to a letter to President Barack Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their support for a strong RFS.
Leaders from across the Midwest joined Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds for their "Hearing in Heartland," which was open to all interested citizens; 83 panelists from across the Midwest Region spoke from the heart about the importance of the RFS to their livelihoods and a healthy rural economy while only two individuals expressed opposition to a robust RFS.
Gov. Branstad, in his Condition of the State address, called on the Iowa Legislature to pass a resolution in support a robust RFS. The Legislature unanimously passed bicameral, bipartisan resolutions calling for the EPA to reverse course and support a strong RFS. View the resolutions: House Resolution 101 | Senate Resolution 101
State of Iowa leaders submitted formal comments to the EPA with current data and analysis that provides Federal leaders the opportunity and obligation to revise their initial volume obligations upward.
Grassley and Klobuchar ask for investigation of "Big Oil"
In other noteworthy news regarding renewable fuels this week, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate anticompetitive practices involving big oil companies.
They believe some oil companies are attempting to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard by obstructing the sale of ethanol blends. In a letter to the DOJ and FTC, Grassley and Klobuchar cited a recent Renewable Fuels Association study that found that unbranded or independent stations are roughly four to six times more likely to offer E85, and 40 times more likely to offer E15 than stations carrying a "Big Five" oil brand, referring to five major oil companies. To see the RFA report card click here . This letter is in follow-up to an earlier letter that Senators Grassley and Klobuchar sent last year.