Biofuel advocates say anti-RFS lawmakers turning backs on farmers

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2015 - Ethanol supporters are expressing their disappointment at a recent letter targeting the Renewable Fuel Standard, saying the 184 members of Congress who signed it are turning their backs on farmers and rural communities.

In a statement, National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Wesley Spurlock called the RFS “one of the most successful energy policies ever enacted” and that the letter includes “false attacks on ethanol that have been disproven time and again.” Not the least of which is the assertion of a blend wall, a cap on the amount of renewable fuels that can be absorbed by the marketplace at current blending levels that are heavy on a gasoline blend that contains 10 percent ethanol.

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The letter says the Environmental Protection Agency should reconsider Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) levels the agency proposed in May. The signees contend that enacting these levels would “exacerbate the onset of the E10 blend wall.” The lawmakers also noted that they were “gravely concerned . . . that despite the agency's recognition of the blend wall, the 2016 proposal acknowledges that it will be breached nonetheless.”  

Spurlock said the blend wall is “a false construct” and that increased blending levels are possible through improved ethanol infrastructure and fuel blends like E30 and E85.

“We have known from the beginning that eventually we would need higher blends of ethanol to meet the statutory requirements,” he said. “That was the point: to replace fossil fuels with renewables. The oil industry doesn't want to hear that. That's why they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to repeal the RFS, even to the point of having their lobbyists write this letter.”

Spurlock and others in the industry have claimed that stakeholders from the oil industry helped in authoring the letter. On Friday, Mark Drajem with Bloomberg Government reported that a Marathon Petroleum Corp. lobbyist, Michael Birsic, was listed electronically as the letter's author. In an email to Bloomberg, Birsic said Marathon provided technical suggestions, but did not write the letter.

“As you would expect, these types of documents are collaborative in nature,” he said. “Marathon Petroleum was one of the collaborators and suggested technical comments. We were not the original or primary author of the letter. We are just one the many interested parties who are seeking relief from the unreasonableness of the RFS mandate.”


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In an email to Agri-Pulse, a spokesman for Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, the letter's lead legislator, said Flores' staff “routinely engages various stakeholders and congressional offices” when drafting such documents. He said Flores “was not aware” that the letter “contained some material which might have originated from a stakeholder” until two weeks ago. The letter was sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday.

Despite issues with the origin of some of the material, the spokesman said Flores “believes in the goals of the letter and the importance of fixing this problem.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said the letter is simply a product of the upcoming Nov. 30 deadline for release of RVOs for 2014, 2015, and 2016, saying “the Big Oil spin machine has gone into overdrive.”

“The fact that members of Congress are parroting Big Oil's blend wall narrative is shameful evidence that money talks,” Dinneen said.

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