Farmers, biofuel industry call on Congress to leave RFS alone

By Erin Voegele | June 17, 2015

On June 17, Fuels America hosted a press call during which American farmers and representatives of the biofuel industry discussed how legislative changes to the renewable fuel standard (RFS) would threaten America’s security, consumers, climate and rural economies. The event was scheduled one day prior to a Senate hearing that is expected to focus on the RFS. The hearing, titled “Re-examining EPA’s Management of the Renewable Fuels Standard Program,” is being held by the Senate Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee. Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, is the only witness scheduled to testify. 

Fred Yoder, an Ohio corn grower and farmer advocate, opened the Fuels America call by noting that the RFS, as it was originally conceived and passed by congress, is working well. Yoder warned that the hearing is likely to feature the same old talking points from Big Oil in an effort to protect the oil industry’s monopoly on our nation’s motor fuels. “America has a choice to diversify our fuel supply with alternatives to oil and keep rural America strong, or enrich foreign oil profits,” Yoder said.

Yoder stressed that changing the RFS statute will create more uncertainty, not less. He also said changing the program would negatively affect rural economies while benefiting foreign oil interests. “What rural economics need and American consumers need is for the EPA to implement the law as intended and rework their proposed rules that cater to the oil industry’s profits before they become final,” he said.

During his presentation, Yoder highlighted some of the economic impacts associated with the renewable fuels industry, and noted the EPA’s RFS delays have frozen $13.7 billion in next-generation biofuel investments.

According to Yoder, the EPA’s RFS proposal has put the oil industry’s agenda ahead of family famers and rural economies. “The EPA needs to get the law back on track and Congress needs to leave it alone,” he said, noting that corn prices are less than half of what they were just a few years ago, due in part to uncertainty over the RFS. “Rarely has congress passed legislation that has worked so well for so many. This is not the time to throw farmers under the bus,” Yoder said.

Cal Dalton, a Wisconsin corn grower and farmer advocate, also weighed in on the RFS proposal during the call. Dalton is one of the original founders of the United Wisconsin Grain Producers ethanol plant, a community-owned facility with more than 800 community shareholders.

He said the plant was established in 2005 to help ensure a good market for locally grown corn and create good jobs that help retain young people in rural communities. When the plant originally began operations, Wisconsin had only four E85 stations, Dalton said. That number has now grown to more than 170.

”All we want EPA to do is do their job and implement the RFS as the standards were originally set by congress,” Dalton said, and highlighted the specific economic benefits ethanol has brought to his state.

“I feel Washington has the responsibility to follow through on its commitment to produce cheaper renewable fuels, clean energy, and innovation, and energy security, and the rural economics. The RFS does not require any legislative change,” Dalton said. “It’s time for the EPA the get the RFS back on track…and choose rural America over foreign oil.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, stressed that there is nothing wrong with the RFS that can’t be fixed with the RFS. “Certainly, legislation is not needed,” he said. “What needs to happen is EPA needs to read the statute, and implement a program that congress put in place because it was working.”

“If EPA allows the program to work, the market will break the blend wall,” Dinneen continued. “If EPA allows the program to work, RINs will drive investment in new technologies, and infrastructure to allow higher-level blends to be sold. If EPA allows the program to work, we will maximize carbon reduction, we will maximize biofuel use and we will maximize consumer savings.”

Dinneen noted that the EPA’s own analysis has shown that rising renewable identification number (RIN) prices do not impact consumer gasoline prices, but do incentivize infrastructure investments that enable E85, E15 and other higher biofuel blenders to be sold in the marketplace. “But, rather than read their own memos, they are reading the talking points of the [American Petroleum Institute],” he continued, noting that if EPA’s proposal is finalized it would amount to a $22 billion windfall for the oil industry, along with higher gas prices and dirtier air for American consumers.