WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2015 – Critics of the corn ethanol industry want to put the Senate on record calling for an end to annual usage mandates for the biofuel.

An amendment that Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are proposing to the Keystone XL pipeline bill (S. 1) would eliminate the corn ethanol targets in the Renewable Fuels Standard established by the 2007 energy law.

"The RFS requires fuel suppliers to blend millions of gallons of biofuels -- most often corn ethanol -- into the nation's gasoline supplies. It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment," said Toomey.

Feinstein called the amendment a “simple and smart modification” to the RFS. “Once we remove the corn ethanol mandate, the RFS program can finally serve its intended purpose: to support the development of advanced, environmentally friendly biofuels like biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other revolutionary fuels.”

The amendment is similar to a bill, the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act, that Feinstein had proposed with then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The mandate for corn ethanol is scheduled to rise to 15 billion gallons this year, although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to propose a lower level in line with the expected “blend wall,” the market limit on the amount of ethanol that can actually be sold. EPA proposed a lower level for 2014, too, but has yet to finalize that mandate.

The Senate is expected to begin voting on amendments to the Keystone bill next week. President Barack Obama is expected to threaten the legislation, but the ethanol industry's supporters would rather not see a vote to cut the RFS. Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, disputed Toomey's argument that ethanol usage drives up food costs, noting that the price of corn is lower now than it was in 2007, and said the amendment “would set our nation’s energy, economic, and climate agenda back decades.”

Paul Winters of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose member companies are developing next-generation biofuels, said the amendment would divide Republicans and should be withdrawn.