Bipartisan support growing to reform renewable fuel standards
Environmental groups worried about the impact on water, wildlife and food security of an increasing need for corn ethanol to meet legislatively ordered mandates are also expressing reservations about the renewable fuel standards, the API said.
Patrick Kelly, an API senior policy adviser, said the renewable fuel standards (RFS) that mandate a certain amount of ethanol in the gas supply should be repealed, or, at a minimum, be significantly reformed.
“They were based on assumptions that turned out not to be true,” Kelly told EP News Wire. “These included an increasing reliance on gas imports, and (they) assumed that gas demand would keep going up. The opposite happened.”
API is, and has been, lobbying for changes, and supports a bipartisan U.S. House bill that would cap the mandated percentage of ethanol at 9.7 percent of expected gas demand.
That would effectively kill the need for any expansion in E-15, gas blended with 15 percent ethanol, an amount approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for most 2001 and newer cars.
Most cars can, and do safely, run on a 10 percent ethanol blend, but Kelly and others argue the higher blend will damage cars, and the American Automobile Association has warned of the possibility of warranties being voided.
“We have seen some movement with legislation,” Kelly said, citing HB 5108, a bill introduced with 17 co-sponsors earlier this year. “There is increased interest on both sides of the aisle, and we expect more members to sign on to that bill.”
Kelly added, “What we would like to see is the mandated element out altogether and capping the maximum amount of ethanol at 9.7 percent in the fuel mix.”
When the bill was introduced, one of its sponsors, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), described RFS as a “well intentioned flop that’s inflicting harm on consumers, the economy and the environment.”
“The corn-based ethanol mandate is driving up the cost of feed for struggling dairy farmers,” Welch said. “It’s driving up the cost of food for working families. It’s ruining the engines of boats, chainsaws and snowmobiles in Vermont and across the country. And it is harming the environment.”
While the API argues environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council has come out strongly against conventional corn ethanol, the organization argues strongly against ditching the renewable fuel standards.
Its position is that second-generation biofuels have the potential to avoid the negative environmental impacts of corn ethanol.
“Failure to deliver on these environmental promises could irreparably damage public policy support for biofuels,” Sasha Stashwick, a senior advocate with the council wrote in a report published last year. “Production of second-generation biofuels is now underway, with three major facilities on track to produce a combined 80 million gallons per year of ethanol from corn stover."
Stover is the corn plant residues typically left in the field after corn grain harvest, including the cobs, husks, leaves and stalks.