WASHINGTON, April 9, 2014 - The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing yesterday to examine the role advanced biofuels play in the rural economy – and to gather evidence to persuade the EPA not to follow through on its proposal to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Witnesses who agreed that the EPA should “stay the course” on mandated biofuel use included former NASCAR driver Richard Childress, now the team owner of Richard Childress Racing, as well as officials from DuPont Industrial Biosciences and the Advanced Ethanol Council.

The EPA’s proposal calls for cutting total biofuel blending from 18.15 billion gallons specified for this year in the 2007 legislation that created RFS 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 gallons, an amount less than the 13.8 billion gallons required in 2013.  EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said that the agency is carefully reviewing comments from stakeholders and that the final rule, which she expects to be released in June, will be different from the original proposal.

Childress, who also serves on the board of Growth Energy, an association of ethanol and renewable fuel producers, said the EPA’s proposal, would “stifle investment in biofuels” and is already “creating great uncertainty for farmers and other investors.” He also said the oil industry has refused to take any steps to allow higher biofuel blends, like the gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol, or Sunoco Green E15, that NASCAR has been successfully using since 2011.

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, commended Congress for what he said were “well-designed policies” that are driving innovation in the biofuels sector, including the RFS.

“The issue around these policies is not their design, but, rather, their dependability,’’ he told lawmakers in his prepared remarks. While government support for the fossil fuel industry is almost always permanent, he said, programs supporting biofuels run the “perpetual risk of expiration.”

In her opening statement, Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D.-Mich., said her panel and Congress had taken an important first step in supporting the biofuel industry by passing the farm bill with funding for the Energy Title.

“Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuel Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future,” she said. And she closed the hearing by promising to deliver all of the testimony from the hearing to the EPA.


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