WASHINGTON, July 20, 2017 – As procedural activity on a bill that would expand sales of higher ethanol blends quiets, opposition to the measure is getting louder.
Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe took to the Senate floor late Wednesday afternoon to criticize the bill, just a few hours after a varied group of organizations sounded off against the legislation, which would allow the sale of E15 during the summer.
The bill – introduced by Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer – would amend a provision in the Clean Air Act to extend a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver currently capped at a 10 percent ethanol blend – the most commonly used fuel in the country – to a 15 percent blend, enabling retailers to sell the blend year-round. Currently, the statutory language blocks the sale from June 1 through Sept. 15.
Inhofe, a vocal ethanol critic and former chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in his floor speech that lawmakers “should not give them this waiver without addressing the larger issue of the” Renewable Fuel Standard, which governs the amount of renewable fuel blended into the nation’s fuel supply.
“Despite my best efforts, the RFS was created to address decreased energy production at home and to decrease carbon dioxide emissions,” said Inhofe, flanked by a photo of a sign advertising ethanol-free gasoline in his home state. “The more we learn about corn ethanol, the more we know the RFS has not been the environmental solution it was sold as.”
The National Corn Growers Association didn’t take kindly to Inhofe’s speech. In a statement, the group said his remarks, “while unfortunate, are no surprise, given his longtime opposition to ethanol.” The group also touted a number of statistics demonstrating improvements in corn production since the early days of the RFS and said the bill needs support, not vocal opposition.
“NCGA supports giving consumers choice, especially a choice they can make to improve the environment, enhance vehicle performance, and save money,” NCGA said. “We encourage senators to support this straightforward red-tape removal.”
But the bill is not without opposition off Capitol Hill as well. A familiar group of opponents spoke with reporters on Wednesday, singling out Fischer’s bill – S.517, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. The collection of wildlife, motorcycle, boating, and consumer groups said the bill would lead to greater mis-fuelings in small engines where E15 is not an approved fuel.
“The bill weakens the Clean Air Act protections, it could jeopardize public health, and it simply needs to be defeated,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said of the “misguided” bill. “We urge (senators) not only to reject this bill, but to get to work reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the bill, and committee Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told Agri-Pulse Fischer was promised a markup as well. Neither Barrasso nor Delaware Democrat Tom Carper, the committee’s ranking member, publicly supported the bill at that hearing or at any point since. Barrasso, in fact, went as far as to say he didn’t support it; Carper offered a more undecided stance, telling reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that he wants to see resolution to concerns about volatility in the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) market.
While the bill may be taking its lumps as it awaits further consideration, a spokeswoman for Fischer said the Nebraska Republican “is continuing to work with members on it.”
Steve Davies contributed to this story.
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