Biofuel industry requests meeting with White House to discuss RFS

By Erin Voegele | May 07, 2015

A group of 12 biofuel trade organizations and companies recently sent a letter to President Obama, requesting a high-level White House meeting to discuss rulemaking related to the renewable fuels standard (RFS). According to the letter, the meeting would focus on renewable fuel volumes (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016, along with the methodology used to set those volumes. 

“Your decision on this matter has consequences far beyond simply setting the fuel mix for the next two years. This decision comes at a critical juncture for our industry, as well as for your legacy on advanced biofuels and climate change,” said the groups in the letter.

The letter indicates that the RFS reflected bipartisan effort and has vastly increased biofuel production, helping to drive oil imports to the lowest levels in decades. “But 18 months ago, your administration unilaterally and unwisely disrupted years of policy stability, replacing certainty with uncertainty. This was enormously disruptive and has largely frozen investment in the advanced biofuel industry. Indeed, not a single additional commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant has selected a site in the United States since the EPA’s November 2013 announcement,” states the letter.

“The problem with the EPA’s flawed proposal wasn’t just that it called for less renewable fuel and thus more foreign oil. The bigger problem was that it was a fundamental shift in the EPA’s approach, which undermined the confidence of investors in the future of advanced biofuels, and in your administration’s willingness to take on oil companies,” continued the groups in the letter.

Those signing the letter stress that oil companies control retail fueling infrastructure and have a well-documented history of using distribution contracts to make it difficult or impossible for retailers to dispense renewable fuel. “The RFS was intended to create the economic incentive for oil companies to invest in renewable fueling infrastructure. Instead of holding the oil industry accountable for their obligations under the law, the EPA signaled that the oil companies’ failure to provide the necessary infrastructure would be grounds for waiving those obligations,” the companies and trade organizations said in the letter, adding that there is deep concern the EPA’s future proposals will take a similar approach.

While opponents of the RFS have predicted the program would raise gas prices, the inflation-adjusted price of gasoline as actually fallen by 50 cents per gallon since the first version of the RFS was enacted in 2005. Similar claims that renewable identification numbers (RINs) would cause gasoline prices to increase have also not been realized. Regarding concern from RFS opponents that the program would significantly expand the production of corn ethanol, the letter stresses that the 15 billion cap on corn ethanol under the RFS has effectively been reached.

The letter was signed by Abengoa Bioenergy, Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, the American Coalition for Ethanol, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the Biotechnology Industry Association, Growth Energy, Novozymes, the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, Poet, DSM, and the Advanced Ethanol Council.