When it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), members of President Obama’s own administration have forgotten his history with renewable energy, National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe charged in his keynote speech at the Biodiesel Conference and Expo this week in San Diego.
Obama was at the forefront early on in the policy’s history. In 2006, then-Senator Obama, an Illinois Democrat, joined with former Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, to propose the establishment of what eventually came to be known as the Alternative Diesel Standard. It proposed blending biofuel into the diesel fuel pool. It ramped up to 2 billion gallons of biodiesel in the diesel pool by 2015, a number that was forward-thinking when proposed yet today is well within reach. The policy evolved and was ultimately passed as RFS-2.
Senator Obama saw his vision enacted into law in December 2007. He ran for president including biodiesel as part of his campaign specifically, and won. When he campaigned again in 2012, supporting renewable energy and biodiesel, he won again, Jobe noted.
“What ultimately became the RFS-2 was first proposed by then Senator Obama,” Jobe said at the industry conference. “But members of Obama’s own administration have forgotten this history.”
The biodiesel story is an example of how government policy can jump start a fledgling industry, Jobe said.
“That is the same story of nearly every new industry that involves technological development. Strong government policy support along with a unique spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking are the primary reasons that so many major modern industries had their start in America,” he said.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard is effective policy that is working,” Jobe says. “It is fulfilling its intention to establish diversity, competition, and choice in the transportation fuel sector, which is why the incumbent (petroleum) industry is trying to kill it.”
Jobe defines the “incumbent” as those working around the clock to erase the RFS and all it has accomplished. He says the idea of a free energy market is false and that nothing about the global or domestic petroleum market is free. Jobe points out the petroleum sector has “enjoyed tax and policy support” that began at the birth of the industry and continues today.
“To say that the RFS skews the free market is nonsense,” Jobe says. “The RFS is a necessary policy to create and protect a modest level of diversity. It is working and needs to be allowed to continue to work and grow as intended. It is the pathway to a free-er market. It is a pro-competitive policy that stimulates investment and innovation.”
Biodiesel is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the EPA’s definition as an Advanced Biofuel -- cutting carbon emissions by as much as 86 percent. The industry supports about 62,000 jobs.
In its draft rule defining annual renewable fuel volumes under for the RFS, the EPA has proposed a biodiesel target of only 1.28 billion gallons, down sharply from estimated 2013 production of 1.7 billion gallons and the industry’s annualized production rate of about 2 billion gallons since July. For more information: EPA proposes lowering congressional RFS requirement
Because of biodiesel’s success, the RFS program has also been a success, Jobe noted. Total advanced biofuel requirements, one fuel segment the RFS now tracks, have been met or exceeded every single year of the program. Still the EPA proposal reduces this target for 2014. The draft EPA proposal is under a 60-day comment period that ends January 28, and Jobe called on the industry to stand up against a future reminiscent of that George Orwell outlined in 1984.
“Senator Obama’s policy vision is now President Obama’s law to implement. The law that was his vision as senator and that he campaigned and won on twice. It is mission critical that we remind President Obama and his administration of his history with this law. We will have to do so loudly and with such volume that the president himself hears it.
“We have to be strong, and unified, and loud, and make our voices heard. History gives us glimpses of game-changing pivotal moments in time. 2014 represents one of those pivotal moments. It is up to us to make sure that 2014 does not become 1984. That Big Oil is not allowed to become Big Brother.”
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