WASHINGTON, D.C. — Trade groups in favor of reforming or eliminating the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and those against making any changes to the legislation held separate Wednesday press conferences to share their views.
The conference calls took place back-to-back today in response to statements made by Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABA), during the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference. In what is certainly considered an about-face, McAdams said his trade group will begin a campaign Wednesday to urge Congress to reform the RFS.
“Unfortunately, the RFS — the very tool that was created to foster our industry — has become one of the greatest obstacles to continued development of the advanced and cellulosic biofuel industry due to inconsistent and poor implementation,” McAdams said in his comments. “... I ask you to join us and work with the (ABA) to reform and strengthen the RFS so it can deliver the promise of next-generation renewable fuels.”
Congress first enacted the RFS under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandated that a minimum of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used by 2012. Two years later, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 expanded the mandated volumes to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Representing those in favor of reforming or repealing the RFS during a conference call were Bob Greco, downstream group director for the American Petroleum Institute; Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group; and Kelly Stone, biofuels policy analyst for ActionAid USA. All agreed the RFS initially had good intentions, but it is now unworkable.
Greco and Faber added the fact ABA asking for Congress for help is a telling statement. “The primary beneficiary of the RFS is saying it no longer works,” said Greco.
“Today’s ABA announcement is a huge game changer,” added Faber. “I don’t think there is any greater indictment [about the need to reform the RFS] than ABA’s announcement today.”
As for why the RFS should be reformed or appealed, speakers said there is too big of a focus on corn-based ethanol instead of second-generation biofuels. Greco added that vehicles do not properly operate on higher-blend ethanol fuels, which is anything above E10, considered traditional petroleum under the blend wall.
In addition, Stone stated that mandates requiring corn ethanol output causes unstable food prices around the world. “We shouldn’t be fueling hunger when we are fueling our cars,” she said.
ETHANOL GROUPS’ RESPONSE
Representing those in favor of keeping the RFS as is were three biofuel leaders and one manufacturer of bio-based products, who spoke in a separate conference call. Speaking during this press call were Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy; Rob Elliott, vice president of the National Corn Growers Association; Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes America; and Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.
Growth Energy has long refuted claims that engine damage can occur when higher ethanol blends are used. The trade group has long pointed to the success of E15, a blend of 15-percent ethanol and 85-percent gasoline, which is now sold at more than 100 gas stations in the United States.
Buis focused on continued innovation in the ethanol industry, which he said is better for national security, the environment and consumers at the pump. “Ethanol is cleaner, cheaper and better for America,” he said.
Growth Energy’s CEO also pointed out that more and more politicians are supporting the RFS. He referred to a recent Republican caucus in Iowa where six of nine presidential candidates said they would support the RFS.
Although not directly, both Elliott and Dinneen refuted comments made by Stone that the RFS is causing food prices to rise worldwide. According to Elliott, the U.S. had its largest year of corn ethanol production ever last year, and there is more grain for food than ever before.
Dinneen added corn prices have gone down since the RFS was enacted. Speaking directly to those in favor of reforming the RFS, Dineen asserted, “They have a lot of explaining to do. Their doomsday scenario makes no sense.”
The chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association added that the opposing trade groups just represent the status quo, meaning they have brought up the same arguments against the RFS for years.
“The RFS has worked,” he said. “It is reducing gas prices [at the pump]. What is their answer? They have none.”
Monroe stated he believes efforts to reform or repeal the RFS are tactics to “create uncertainty in the biofuel space.”
The biofuel leaders also stressed the ABA in no way represents their interests.