Bipartisan House majority want corn-ethanol mandate lowered in RFS

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, May 29, 2014 - A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives is urging EPA chief Gina McCarthy to reduce mandated corn-ethanol production in the agency's final rule for 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard levels.

In all, 218 of the 435 House members have expressed concerns regarding the current ethanol mandate, according to Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Steve Womack of Arkansas, both Republicans, and Democrats Jim Costa of California and Peter Welch of Vermont.

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“The flawed ethanol mandate has a real impact on the American economy, and legislation in the House to reform the RFS has drawn the support of more the 50 organizations representing a diverse range of issues,” the lawmakers said in a news release from Goodlatte's office. “As the final rule is written, we urge Administrator McCarthy to carefully consider the concerns of a majority of House lawmakers in any decision and take action to reduce the burden of the RFS for 2014.”  McCarthy has indicated the final rule will be released in June.

In April 2013, the four lawmakers introduced H.R. 1462, the RFS Reform Act, which eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements, caps the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent, and requires the EPA to set cellulosic biofuels levels at production levels.

In a draft proposal released in November, the EPA called for reducing corn ethanol production to 13 billion gallons in 2014, down from the 14.4 billion required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Following months of lobbying by renewable fuel trade groups and their allies in Congress, McCarthy told an audience earlier this month that the cutbacks first proposed last fall may be eased in the final rule. Industry sources are putting the number at 13.6 billion gallons.

In a letter to McCarthy in October, Goodlatte and his allies argued that the ethanol mandate was eating up around 40 percent of the nation's corn, artificially raising prices for the commodity and causing farmers to put environmentally sensitive land into production. They also pointed to research that indicated ethanol use and production may actually lower air and water quality.

A spokeswoman for Goodlatte said the 218 figure is the total number of House members who have cosponsored legislation calling for reform of the RFS or signed letters recognizing there is a problem with the RFS.

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