FORT WORTH, Texas, Jan. 20, 2015 -- After 17 months of uncertainty surrounding U.S. renewable fuels policy, industry leaders are expressing confidence that this year will provide an opportunity to move ahead into a more definite future.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last revised the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in August 2013, leaving the makers of ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable fuels unsure about the federal landscape for their products ever since. Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, said there’s more confidence for improvement in 2015 than there was in past years because “there’s nowhere else for it to go."“If the EPA doesn’t get this back on track, they may as well not have a program,” Jobe told reporters Tuesday at NBB’s annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s the law. It’s the law of the land, and for them to not get it back on track would be just sort of a blatant violation of that.”
The RFS, which was revised in 2007 to include biodiesel, is one of two “cornerstone policies” – as Jobe put it – for NBB. The other is the biodiesel tax credit, typically included in tax extenders legislation. Congress didn’t approve the credit for 2014 until there was just weeks left in the year, and its fate for 2015 is uncertain. This year is the fourth time in six years that the credit has been allowed to lapse.
Jobe said the uncertainty in the RFS and the tax credit has created a conference that is “angry but energized” and still optimistic for the future of their burgeoning industry.
In a speech to conference attendees – about 1,000 in number – Jobe invoked scenes from the 1985 Steven Spielberg classic “Back to the Future,” where time travel allowed for a peek 30 years into the future to 2015. Jobe said 2015 could be “a launching point for unprecedented growth, opportunity, and prosperity.”
But the convention isn’t strictly being convened to talk about biodiesel’s optimistic future. In both his speech and his remarks to reporters immediately afterward, Jobe accused opponents of renewable fuels of using false information to support their claims.
He cited a 2013 study by NERA Economic Consulting that was used by the American Petroleum Institute in predicting a “Diesel Death Spiral” that would lead to diesel prices hitting $15 per gallon in 2014 and $70 per gallon in 2015, largely due to the RFS. He said although actual 2014 diesel prices and more recent 2015 price projections prove this study to be false, API still referenced the report in a January press conference and on its website.
“We’re not talking about a little fib here,” Jobe said, also noting that these same figures had been presented in testimony to the House Energy & Commerce Committee. “It’s like the Mayan calendar people continuing to insist that the world is going to end in December of 2012.”
Jobe reiterated several times that many in the oil and petroleum industries are actually supportive of renewable fuels, and said his messages to groups like API was “more of an appeal than an attack.”
While progress on the RFS is in the hands of an EPA that Jobe said has “over-complicated” the process, changes to the biodiesel tax credit would have to be handled by Congress. Jobe pointed out that both the RFS and the tax credit were passed during the presidency of George W. Bush, who is hardly seen as an anti-oil president.
“They were bipartisan legislation that were promoted, advocated, signed by President Bush,” Jobe said. “There are some members that have forgotten that, and we’re doing our best to remind them.
“2015 has to be the year we get back to the future of this program, back to the future of this industry, back to the future of this country,” Jobe said. “We are the ones on the right side of history, and we have a powerful force on our side – the truth.”
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