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Senators Tell Biden Biofuels, Ag 'Woefully Underrepresented' in Administration's Agenda

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A group of senators has requested a meeting with President Joe Biden to talk biofuels. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

A group of Republican U.S. senators is requesting a meeting with the Biden administration to talk biofuels, after the industry has suffered a series of setbacks in court and on the regulatory scene.

Recent reports indicate the administration may be delaying already-late Renewable Fuel Standard volume proposals for 2021 and 2022. That is in addition to a recent court ruling that vacated EPA action to allow year-round E15 sales and a Supreme Court ruling in favor of refiners in a small-refinery exemptions case.

The group of Midwest senators said in a letter to Biden on Wednesday that although electric vehicles may be the future, biofuels such as ethanol are ready to help in greenhouse gas emissions reductions efforts.

"Specifically, we seek an audience to discuss the tremendous opportunity that biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel present to bolster affordable American energy, underpin a strong agricultural economy, and immediately lower transportation emissions using the existing consumer vehicle fleet and fueling infrastructure," the senators said in the letter.

"Unfortunately, the promise of homegrown biofuels and our agriculture sector appear to be woefully underrepresented in your administration's energy, environmental and transportation agenda."

The letter is signed by Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa; John Thune and M. Michael Rounds from South Dakota; Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran, Kansas; Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, Nebraska; and Roy Blunt, Missouri. Most of the lawmakers met previously with the Trump administration on several occasions to discuss biofuels policies.

In the letter the senators said EVs are not yet ready for primetime.

"You have made clear your interest in going all-in on electric vehicles despite the outstanding costs, critical mineral constraints and related labor exploitation, electricity generation and transmission demands, consumer needs, and other unresolved aspects of this ambition," the senators said.

"While we recognize that EVs will eventually play an increased role in America's transportation and energy future, and that American innovation and ingenuity will overcome some of the hurdles faced by this nascent industry, we urge you to not look beyond the current generation of biofuels technology and forgo the meaningful reduction in carbon emissions they can provide."

The lawmakers said because recent studies find corn ethanol to have 46% lower lifecycle emissions than gasoline, "proven advancements" like ethanol derived from corn kernel fiber, and farming practices are becoming "increasingly efficient," lifecycle emissions for ethanol can be reduced by as much as 70% compared to gasoline.

"We hope to discuss with you immediate and intermediate steps your administration can take to feature American agriculture and biofuels as part of your energy and environmental agenda," the senators said.

The senators asked Biden to direct EPA to adopt updated greenhouse gas modeling for renewable fuels and approve "long-stalled registrations" for advanced fuels.

The senators point to biofuels as a tool to expand exports to countries such as the United Kingdom and India, where clean fuel standards and other programs are in the works.

"Homegrown, American biofuels are a prime candidate for reducing our trade deficits and updating EPA's modeling and advancing fuel registrations, which can simply be done through administrative action, can help unlock this potential," the letter said.

"Additionally, updated and current modeling across related industries and for associated feedstocks will further highlight the environmental contributions of the bio-based economy. Modern technologies should be evaluated on a level playing field, and we are confident that the many environmental and economic benefits of biotechnologies and efficient agriculture, especially biofuels, will be self-evident when scored fairly."

The Biden administration has proposed $174 billion in EV investments, compared to $15 billion in a program for which biofuels would be one of many competing technologies.

"If the administration is serious about achieving near-term emissions reductions in the transportation sector, it should support, at a minimum, investment parity for biofuel technologies and policies that will further lower the lifecycle carbon intensity of fuels," the senators said.

"EPA has approved over 97% of the vehicles on the road today to run on E15 fuel. The administration should take aggressive action to enable millions of American drivers to reduce their emissions via higher biofuel blends, including year-round access to E15 and reducing other regulatory hurdles."

In addition, the lawmakers said the administration should "rigorously implement and enforce the RFS in accordance with Congress' clear intent, restoring integrity to the program." They said oil refiners should have to prove "disproportionate economic hardship" when requesting small-refinery exemptions.

"Mr. President, these are but a few administrative actions you can direct to further advance American energy security, expand consumer access to affordable energy, and reinforce gains in environmental stewardship, all while supporting a rural economy that looks forward to capitalizing on its full potential," the letter said.

"Given the bipartisan support for biofuels and leveraging the agricultural economy as energy and environmental solutions, including the aforementioned policies, we would welcome including our Democratic colleagues in such a dialogue."

Read the letter here: https://www.ernst.senate.gov/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow me on Twitter @DTNeeley

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