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What’s Missing from House Oversight RFS Hearing? The Ethanol Industry

Renewable Fuels Association

March 16, 2016

Today, the House Oversight Subcommittees on Interior and Healthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules are holding a joint hearing to ostensibly examine the Renewable Fuel Standard. However, once again, no one from the U.S. biofuels industry was invited to testify, silencing a powerful voice that could speak to the provision’s implementation and effect. If invited to testify, the ethanol industry would have talked about the numerous benefits of the program and why continued support is needed to help overcome barriers erected by the incumbent oil industry.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is currently the only law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “It has enhanced U.S. energy security by virtually eliminating gasoline imports. Ethanol is the cleanest, lowest cost, highest value octane source available to refiners today, and so is helping to lower consumer gasoline prices. The RFS has been an unmitigated success, something the subcommittees should hear today from someone in the industry,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the committee has stacked the witness list with oil company apologists intent upon undermining public support for this important program,” Dinneen said. “Why is the committee afraid to hear all sides of the debate?”

According to prepared remarks provided on the committee’s website, EPA plans to again cite concern with the “E10 blend wall” as part of the reason why the agency lowered the final conventional 2014–2016 RFS renewable volume obligations below the statutory requirement. That issue is currently before the D.C. Court of Appeals in multiple lawsuits filed by both biofuel and petroleum interests.

“EPA is sticking to its script,” said Dinneen. “But the agency is once again demonstrating it does not understand Congress’ objective in passing the RFS in the first place. Congress wanted to maximize the use of renewable fuels. It wanted to break down the blend wall and other obstacles to low carbon fuels. It wanted the RFS to drive marketplace change and promote investment in new technologies and infrastructure to reshape America’s energy portfolio. However, EPA’s timid enforcement of the RFS has prevented that from happening.”

Conversely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been helpful through its recent Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, which aims to add more than 1,400 ethanol blender pumps to market in 21 states. This effort, along with those already underway in ethanol and agriculture, will add E15 and E85 at nearly 2,000 new stations. Today, E15 and E85 are sold at 180 stations and 3,434 stations, respectively.

“It is bewildering to me how two agencies, under the same administration, are taking such disparate approaches to biofuels,” said Dinneen. “USDA’s efforts are helping to grow our industry, while EPA is hampering our industry and preventing the continued evolution of biofuels toward lower carbon, higher octane alternatives.”

The subcommittees will also hear anti-RFS testimony from ActionAid USA and The Heritage Foundation.

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