Senators introduce bill to eliminate corn ethanol mandate

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2013 - Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C, today introduced a bill called that would repeal requirements that a certain amount of corn ethanol be blended into gasoline.

At the same time, the "Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act" would maintain the cellulosic and advanced biofuel mandates in order to ensure that renewable fuel production does not rely on food-based feedstock, according to the senators.

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Cosponsors of the bill are Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Kay Hagan, D-N.C.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.

The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and revised in 2007, sets a target for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels blended into gasoline by 2022 with the corn ethanol mandate scheduled to reach 15 billion gallons by 2015. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a plan to cut total biofuel blending from 18.15 billion gallons specified for 2014 to 15.21 billion gallons. The measure also would drop the corn ethanol requirement from 14.4 billion gallons to a little more than 13 billion.

Advanced biofuel interests say the EPA's proposed cuts would chill billions of dollars in investments made in the development and manufacturing of biofuels.

However, Feinstein said she introduced the bill because too much of the U.S. corn crop-44 percent-is being diverted from food to fuel under the RFS.

“I strongly support requiring a shift to low-carbon advanced biofuel, including biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other revolutionary fuels,” she said in a statement. “But a corn ethanol mandate is simply bad policy.”

The National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation joined a coalition of poultry and livestock groups asking each member of the Senate to support the bill.

"We know all too well from last year that corn crop projections and inventories can be erased from Mother Nature's wrath,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “This important legislation will help us ensure this vital resource is appropriately allocated.”

National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger added that current ethanol policy forces competition for corn, a major cost in poultry production, despite harvest results.

“The resulting volatility in corn prices hit hard, but then recedes slowly,” Brandenberger said. “Turkeys are being fed off last season's purchase of high-priced corn, and those costs linger well after the lower-priced corn harvest available now."

However, Bob Dineen, the CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), called the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act a “monumentally stupid” proposal that is “oil-centric” and “deeply misguided.”

“By removing first generation ethanol from the RFS, the foundation will be pulled out from underneath cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels,” Dineen said. “The price to be paid for passage is higher gas prices, increased harsh environmental damage, job loss, and a brutal blow to rural economies.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis further insisted that ethanol is not the cause of high food prices.

“Countless studies have shown that record-high oil prices, Wall Street speculators and the high costs of manufacturing, packaging and transportation are the true culprits driving up food prices,” said Buis, whose groups represents ethanol producers.  

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