Ag Policy Blog

Sensenbrenner Bills Aimed at RFS Reform

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Although ethanol interest groups and rural lawmakers have had assurances the Trump administration will continue to support biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard, a move in Congress to reform the RFS likely will continue.

Earlier this week Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at reforming the RFS.

One bill calls for the relaxing of RFS mandates for cellulosic biofuels. Another bill calls for a study of mid-level ethanol blends.

In addition, legislation introduced last year has called for RFS reform to include limiting the amount of ethanol allowed in the gasoline supply to 9.7%.

The first Sensenbrenner bill, the comprehensive mid-level ethanol assessment legislation, would require the National Academy of Sciences to "provide a comprehensive assessment of research on the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends – fuel containing more than 10% ethanol by volume – compared to gasoline blends containing 10% or 0% ethanol. The study will evaluate the performance, safety, and environmental impact of mid-level ethanol blended fuels," Sensenbrenner announced in a news release.

"The second bill focuses on cellulosic biofuel assessment. This legislation relaxes the Environmental Protection Agency's volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the RFS to what is commercially available until the National Academy of Sciences submits to Congress a report on the environmental and economic impacts of cellulosic biofuel, and the feasibility of large-scale commercial production.

"These common sense bills ensure that hardworking American fuel consumers are not needlessly subjected to ineffectual and burdensome government regulations."

Sensenbrenner said in a statement: "As a former member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I have always believed science-based decision making must guide our assessment of the RFS and the effects this policy has had on consumers, our economy, and our environment. This is especially true in a state like Wisconsin, where the use of recreational vehicles and marine engines is a way of life for many of its residents."

In a statement to DTN the Renewable Fuels Association said the bills introduced are nothing new.

"These are the same senseless bills that Rep. Sensenbrenner has introduced in the past," RFA said.

"This is nothing more than a regurgitation of the same outdated and inaccurate talking points that big oil has used to keep its near-monopoly at the pump. E15 is the most tested fuel in the history of motor fuels, and in the more than four years since it was approved by EPA, there have not been any reported cases of engine damage or mis-fueling. More than 400 million miles have been driven on E15 without incident- it's time to end the witch-hunt.

"Meantime, the Renewable Fuel Standard was always meant to be forward looking, incentivizing cellulosic ethanol and other second generation biofuels to help diversify our fuel supply. Under the RFS, EPA already has the flexibility to adjust annual volumes for cellulosic and advanced biofuels, and the agency has used that flexibility in recent years to set cellulosic biofuel volumes closer to actual production levels. Ethanol is the cleanest, most affordable, highest octane source on the planet. These bills are unnecessary and would ultimately only punish consumers who want a choice at the pump."

Last year Sensenbrenner introduced a bill to reverse the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval of E15, and to require more study of the issue.

There have been a number of bills aimed at reforming the RFS in the past couple of years.

According to a position paper from the American Coalition for Ethanol in April 2016,…, those bills include the RFS Reform Act of 2015, the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act both from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; the LEVEL Act, or Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas; the Phantom Fuel Reform Act introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; American Energy Renaissance Act of 2015, by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015, by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Flake and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

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