WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 – Sen. Rand Paul, who officially launched his presidential candidacy on Tuesday, is trying to expand his support beyond his young and libertarian base. One way he’s trying to do it is by sponsoring legislation aimed at increasing consumption of ethanol.

Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are co-sponsoring legislation, titled the “Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015,” which among other things removes EPA evaporation regulations on summer gasoline blends that could limit sales of 15-percent ethanol blends (E15) during the summer.

Grassley told reporters that Paul approached him about supporting the bill. Grassley said he agreed to sign on after Paul made some unspecified changes. In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency last fall, the Renewable Fuels Association said the agency’s fuel volatility standard is discouraging service stations from offering E15 and stifling the industry’s growth. Retailers repeatedly cite the volatility standard in declining to sell E15, said RFA, which argues that the EPA is being unfair in not granting a waiver for the product.

“The EPA should be consistent in the way it treats different fuel blends as a matter of fairness and to give consumers more options for fueling their vehicles,” Grassley said. Paul said the bill “will free fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that can lower costs to consumers, increase domestic energy production, and benefit the environment.”

The bill (S. 889) also seeks to increase the production of flexible-fuel vehicles by permanently extending a credit for the vehicles in meeting fuel-economy standards and providing a bonus credit for automakers if at least half of their new cars and trucks are flexible-fuel. Flex-fuel vehicles can run on up to 85 percent ethanol.

The bill’s benefits aren’t limited to ethanol. Another provision would benefit liquefied natural gas by requiring it to be taxed on its energy content, rather than volume.

Paul didn’t appear at the Iowa Ag Summit last month where other potential GOP candidates were questioned at length about their support for the Renewable Fuel Standard. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who later announced his candidacy, stuck to his opposition to the RFS. The other potential candidates, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, expressed support for the mandates

Ahead of the summit, The Wall Street Journal quoted a Paul staffer who said he “does not support the government telling consumers or businesses what type of fuel they must use or sell.”

While the ethanol industry welcomed the bill, it will be watching Paul to see whether he looks for more co-sponsors and actually tries to pass the legislation, said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “In the final analysis Iowans will view his position on renewable fuels and consumer fuel choice based on his position on the RFS,” Shaw said.

[This article first appeared in our April 8, 2015 Agri-Pulse newsletter. If you aren’t a subscriber or don’t download our Wednesday newsletters, you’re missing out on stories such as this one.]


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