Vilsack sees RFS higher than EPA's original proposal

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2014 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he expects blending requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard will end up being raised from the EPA's draft proposal for 2014, but he cautioned those in the ethanol industry not to focus too much on the numbers.

Speaking to a Washington gathering of members of Growth Energy, an ethanol producers group, Vilsack said he based his assumptions on where the RFS will end up on public comments made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

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“This is all I know about the RFS: I'm reasonably sure that the numbers are going to be higher, and I'm reasonably sure that as we look at the rule as it comes out that there will be a commitment to a plan or strategy working with the industry to get to 15 billion gallons,” Vilsack said, adding that he hoped the final rule demonstrates the administration's commitment to renewable fuels, including corn-based ethanol.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said he also expects the blending requirements for 2014 to be higher than the original EPA proposal.

“They've been out there saying the numbers are going to go up - well ‘duh,” Buis said. “The numbers they proposed weren't even in line with what was being consumed.”

EPA sent its proposed final rule for the 2014 RFS to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last month, where it will go through an “interagency review.” No date has been set for the rule's release. The draft rule released in November 2013 called for lowering blending requirements to 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel, which is below the 18.15 billion gallons called for by Congress.

Buis and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen were to meet with OMB officials Tuesday afternoon. Buis said it would be an opportunity to make the case for the stance he and Dinneen have on renewable fuels, but it would be hard to gauge the success of their presentation because of the nature of OMB officials, who Buis quipped “would make pretty good poker players.”

Buis said the stranglehold the oil industry has at the pump is preventing adequate market access that could show a stronger demand for ethanol.

“Our message is really clear, let the market forces drive higher blend.” Buis said to a group of reporters after Vilsack's remarks. “We're now 10 percent of the nation's fuel, we know we can do more.”

Vilsack said as important as the RFS is to the ethanol industry, it is also important for the industry to look at other areas that demonstrate the potential for the fuel. He said the strong focus strictly on the RFS can be a negative for the industry.

“I think it would be a mistake if all we focused on was (the RFS) and not take a look at the larger, broader picture,” Vilsack said. He said the industry should devote more efforts to outlets in exports, the Defense Department and in bi-products of ethanol production - where he said the industry hasn't “even scratched the surface.”

“I hope that there is still great optimism here as there should be,” Vilsack said. “This is an important industry for the future of the country.”

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