WASHINGTON, March 2, 2016 - After years of instability, the Renewable Fuel Standard appears to be headed toward more stable footing, but critics of the mandate are still pushing for its repeal.
In November, the EPA’s release of multiyear Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014-2016 and biomass-based diesel requirements for 2017 put an end to years of drama surrounding the RFS. Advocates and opponents of the mandate were both up in arms about the uncertainty surrounding the EPA’s governance of the RFS, so much so that a lawsuit forcing EPA to release the RVOs was eventually filed by the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, two staunch enemies of the RFS.
Now, opponents are launching a new call for action against the RFS. Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held an RFS oversight hearing where Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., argued repeatedly for repeal.
“Most of the rationale originally justifying the RFS has disappeared,” Inhofe said. API President and CEO Jack Gerard said something similar in January when he referred to the RFS as “a relic of our nation’s era of energy dependency.” On a call with reporters last week, API’s Frank Macchiarola doubled down on Gerard’s comments, calling the “outdated” RFS “public policy at its worst.”
Macchiarola said RFS repeal or significant reform “is a top priority this year” for API, adding that the organization is stepping up calls for repeal in an “across-the-board advocacy campaign” reaching out to Congress as well as at state and grassroots levels.
Opponents of the RFS are trying to frame this as a new approach, but Growth Energy Co-Chair and acting CEO Tom Buis sees this approach is “more of the same.” He says he and many others have been fighting many of the same battles from RFS opponents essentially since it was signed into law, and he doesn’t see these latest efforts going anywhere.
“I don’t think anything’s changed in Congress” that would allow for repeal or reform, he said in an interview with Agri-Pulse. “I don’t anticipate anything happening whatsoever. There’s one thing that Congress does better than anybody and that’s nothing.”
Buis’ viewpoint might be buoyed by comments from EPA officials stating their desire to get the RFS back on track after years of management issues with the statute. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy publicly stated that she wants to return the RFS to statutory RVOs rather than using a waiver to set lower volumes as the agency did – and has been sued for doing so – in November.
At the EPW hearing last week, EPA’s Janet McCabe said the agency is working to release new RVOs on the timeline mandated by Congress, which would call for finalized figures by the end of November of this year for 2017’s RVOs, for example.
Based on those statements, Buis remains confident in the future of the ethanol industry and the RFS. “They signaled that they want to get back on track for statutory levels,” he said, “and we all know we can do it.”
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