Today we head to Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District where incumbent candidate, Rep. Collin Peterson, is up against Dave Hughes. This district has eight ethanol plants, 31 companies that work with Minnesota's ethanol industry and 98 fuel retailers that offer higher blends of ethanol.
Collin Peterson (D)
Q. The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for the use of increasing amounts of ethanol to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Do you support the Renewable Fuel Standard?
A. Absolutely. As founder and co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, I am a strong supporter of ethanol and biodiesel, and acutely aware of the valuable demand they create for corn and soybean farmers, as well as producers of other feedstocks. I'm committed to preserving this market and holding EPA accountable as it administers the RFS.
Q. This year, the EPA has granted RFS waivers to 48 small refiners for the years 2016 and 2017, representing an estimated 2.25 billion gallons of ethanol. Do you support the EPA's actions? If no, will you pressure the EPA and the Trump Administration to halt issuing RFS waivers for 2018 and beyond, to identify the recipients of the 2016 and 2017 waivers and lastly, to reallocate the 2.25 billion gallons of ethanol that were lost due to the 2016 and 2017 waivers?
A. No, I think the arbitrary granting of waivers, many to refiners that are neither small nor distressed, undercuts both the spirit and the effectiveness of the RFS, and hurts producers and ethanol plants. I wrote a letter to the White House and EPA's then-Administrator Scott Pruitt expressing my concern on the matter and pressing them to address it. I will continue to hold the administration to its commitments under the RFS, and specifically I will make sure to remind the President of the promises he made to maintain a strong RFS.
Q. At present, E15 cannot be sold in the summer months since Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) regulations have not kept pace with the addition of E15 into the fuel market. Would you fix this problem by a Congressional Act, similar to how E10 (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline) was handled? Or, would you try to expedite the solution by pushing the White House and EPA to use existing regulatory authority to give E15 the same RVP treatment as E10?
A. I support year-round E15 sales, and passing legislation to extend the one-pound waiver beyond E10 is the most reliable approach to fixing the disparity and this is why I am an original cosponsor of a bill to do just that. I have heard rumors that the White House may use regulatory authority to extend the waiver, but court challenges are likely. However, I will continue to push for all means necessary to get year-round E15 sales approved.
Q. The number of stations offering E15 in Minnesota has increased exponentially the last two years (nearly 300 at present) and a big reason for this increase was the financial assistance provided by the federal government's Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership program for storage and dispensing equipment upgrades. Would you support renewing funding for this program so that even more stations in Minnesota can offer E15?
A. Yes. Minnesota is a leader in biofuels, whether its the expansion of E15 you mention, the integration of blender pumps, or the state's progressive B20 mandate. This progress can't move forward without programs like the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, and while the Administration opted to eliminate the program, I am working to ensure it and other critical biofuels programs are reinstated in the farm bill conference report.
Dave Hughes (R)
Please note that Hughes did not respond to our questionnaire. He did, however, comment on the ethanol industry, the RFS waivers, year-round E15 and increasing the volume of ethanol consumption in the RFS at Farmfest in August. Below are his comments:
"I support the concept of the waivers that you are asking about. If there’s a petroleum refinery that is under capitalized to meet the requirement I think there should be an opportunity for them to get a waiver. So the concept is there and I support that. As to the details of it, I think maybe Congress needs to take a closer look. For the Renewable Fuels Standard, strengthening it, I just think the year round blending that makes a lot of sense. I don’t think we need to necessarily automatically increase the billions of gallons per year, every single year, I’m not sure that is necessarily always the measure of merit, but I am a big fan of ethanol, it is a wonderful product. I'd like the industry to maybe cooperate more with and collaborate more with the petroleum industry so that eventually we can get to a point down the line where the mandate is no longer required. That is a long way off but we have to start working in that direction. There is some of the elements of we do at the federal level that bother me, using tax payer dollars to do certain maintenance on the blended fuels, if it stands on its own, they should stand on their own."
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