OMAHA (DTN) -- A bipartisan group of 39 senators on Friday sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy pressing for a Renewable Fuel Standard as was intended by the 2007 law. However, the question remains: Where does support for the RFS stand among the other 61 senators?
Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association, said he doesn't think the number of senators signing the letter means the RFS lacks majority support.
"Other senators are sending their own letters, and many, many senators don't have a dog in the fight and will not engage either way. It demonstrates we have far more if it came to a vote," Dinneen said.
Earlier this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the RFS, where Republicans on the committee suggested reform or repeal of the law may be necessary. (To read more about the RFS hearing, visit http://bit.ly/…)
Senators signing the letter Friday include 11 Republicans and 28 Democrats from a wide geographic range.
The Republicans include Charles Grassley, Iowa; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, Kansas; John Thune and Mike Rounds, South Dakota; Mark Kirk, Illinois; Joni Ernst, Iowa; Deb Fischer, Nebraska; John Hoeven, North Dakota; and Roy Blunt, Missouri. Graham, a former presidential candidate who was previously a critic of the renewable fuels industry, also signed a similar letter in support of the RFS in the heat of the presidential primary race back in April 2015.
Democrats signing the letter Friday include Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Minnesota; Dick Durbin, Illinois; Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota; Joe Donnelly, Indiana; Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, New Mexico; Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, Michigan; Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin; Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, Hawaii; Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Oregon; Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island; Barbara Boxer, California; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Washington; Bill Nelson, Florida; Michael Bennet, Colorado; Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Massachusetts; Jon Tester, Montana; and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut.
"We urge you to ensure that the final rule promote growth in the U.S. biofuel sector and capture economic opportunity rather than drive investment overseas," the senators wrote in the letter.
"...As a result of the agency's consideration of distribution infrastructure when setting the Renewable Volume Obligation for 2014, 2015 and 2016, contrary to the clearly defined waiver authority provided by Congress, biofuel investment has fallen and projects are moving overseas. We cannot afford to cede our leadership positon in the world. A strong RFS and more biofuels make our country more secure," the senators wrote.
Growth Energy Chief Executive Officer Emily Skor said in a statement Friday the EPA should set the volumes as intended.
"The EPA must return stability to this policy to ensure that we keep America moving forward," she said. "The RFS decreases our dependence on foreign oil, improves our environment by reducing harmful emissions and displacing toxic chemicals found in gasoline, and gives American consumers a choice of a less-expensive, higher-performing fuel."
In October 2015, the group of senators met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to push for the release of a final RFS rule that reflects the intention of the original law. That includes setting corn-based ethanol's portion of the law at 15 billion gallons. EPA's latest proposal sets that number at 14.8 billion gallons for 2017.
Dinneen said EPA's proposal is giving in to the demands of the oil industry.
"In proposing a lower conventional biofuel target for 2017, the EPA is catering to the oil industry by relying upon an illegal interpretation of its waiver authority and concern over a blend wall that the oil industry itself is creating," he said.
"The RFA has demonstrated just how easy it would be for obligated parties to reach the 15 billion gallon statutory volume for conventional biofuels next year through rising gasoline demand, increased E15 and E85 and 2 billion surplus renewable identification numbers available to refiners.
"Meantime, continued uncertainty has caused investments in new technology and advanced biofuel to languish or move overseas. It's time EPA follows the statutory requirement and increase the conventional biofuel target to 15 billion gallons," Dinneen said.
Jim Talent, chairman of Americans for Energy Security and Innovation, a non-profit group dedicated to supporting the renewable fuel industry and maintaining a strong RFS, said in a statement the bipartisan nature of support for the RFS is indicative of the policy's success.
"Bipartisan support for biofuels remains strong because the RFS unites those who care about cleaner air, better jobs, stronger energy security, and more affordable options at the gas pump," he said.
"Without the RFS, consumers and domestic energy producers would remain vulnerable to hostile forces that seek to manipulate the global oil market. This is a policy that is vital to America's future, and with so much active support in the Senate, there's good reason to be confident that the RFS will continue to drive America's transition to clean, homegrown energy."
Read the senators' full letter here: http://bit.ly/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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