corn ethanol

Biofuel Support Needed as Ethanol Mandate Under Fire

Corn ethanol has come under attack in recent weeks, with petroleum groups and environmental groups questioning its environmental benefits and its place within the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) supports the use of biofuels and the RFS, which positively impacts biodiesel.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog announced it will launch a project to determine if the agency considered legally mandated studies and complied with reporting requirements while putting its RFS program into effect.

According to Law360, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General will specifically evaluate whether the EPA had updated its support of the RFS with findings from the legally mandated National Academy of Sciences 2011 study on biofuels, the EPA’s own 2011 report to Congress on the environmental impacts of biofuels and any subsequent reports or relevant research regarding biofuels. The watchdog will also look into whether the EPA followed reporting requirements.

Lawmakers and legislators have taken the heat for the controversial RFS. Earlier this year, lawmakers in both houses of Congress introduced legislation that would eliminate the use of corn-based ethanol from the renewable fuels that refiners are required to blend into the U.S. fuel supply as part of the RFS program.

The first bill was introduced by House members Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Jim Costa, D-Calif. The RFS Reform Act, or H.R. 704 was an attempt to reform the program and remove the mandated blending of ethanol into gasoline.

Less than a month after H.R. 704 was introduced, a bipartisan trio of U.S. senators aimed to do approximately the same thing. The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015, or S.577, was co-sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Both of these bills have not progressed.

Big Oil ramping up anti-ethanol campaign

Along with legislators, the petroleum industry has been pushing to eliminate the RFS, calling it a stealth tax on gasoline and the Renewable Identification Number program is ripe for fraud.

According to Bloomberg, Big Oil is launching an anti-ethanol campaign to persuade President Obama to abandon ethanol with a new television advertising pitch: Ethanol is worse for the climate than gasoline.

“Mandating corn for ethanol doubles greenhouse-gas emissions compared to gasoline over 30 years,” according to a new television advertisement sponsored by an odd-bedfellows group of refiners, environmentalists and chain-restaurant owners. “Mounting scientific evidence has revealed the inconvenient truth: Increasing ethanol mandates can actually make things worse.”

The alliance behind the ad, Smarter Fuel Future Coalition, is investing to influence inside-the-Beltway players.

Environmental groups have also taken issue with the RFS, including the Environmental Working Group, which has called corn ethanol worse for the environmental than the Keystone XL pipeline.