It’s hard to rival the diversity and sheer number of groups and companies with a vested interest in the renewable-fuels standard, from food and livestock businesses to those in the environmental and energy sectors.
No official coalition exists to reform or repeal the mandate, like the one in late 2011 that successfully lobbied to allow $5 billion in annual corn-ethanol subsidies to expire. “Our reasons for all agreeing the corn-ethanol tax credit was a bad idea just didn’t extend to the rest of the biofuels market,” said Nathanael Greene, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s renewable-energy policy. NRDC has one of the more nuanced stances, which is reflected in Waxman’s still-evolving position. The group doesn’t want Congress to repeal the mandate, but it’s concerned about the carbon footprint of corn ethanol and would prefer that the Environmental Protection Agency manage any reforms.
The American Petroleum Institute, the powerful lobby group for major oil companies, announced in November that it was shifting its position from seeking to reform the policy to outright repeal. API is urging lawmakers in the same direction as Friends of the Earth, one of the most left-leaning environmental groups. Its website says the mandate should “either be fixed or ditched.” The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents the refineries that blend the biofuels with gasoline, has been one of the loudest critics of the standard, even before last year’s record drought thrust the issue to the forefront.
One of the most powerful factions opposed to the standard is what lobbyists refer to as the “barnyard crowd”: trade groups representing livestock interests such as the National Turkey Federation, the National Pork Producers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, and the Milk Producers Council. The concern expressed by these groups—higher corn prices—is what gets certain Democrats to the table, such as Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., who hears from poultry producers in his state. The National Restaurant Association and the Grocery Manufacturers, which have a presence in all states and congressional districts, are also opposed to the standard because of the use of corn.
The list of interests lobbying to maintain the mandate without changes is much shorter, led by trade groups for the biofuels industry: the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy. But this list also includes one very important party—President Obama, whose home state of Illinois is a big ethanol producer. Whether Obama will be willing to reform the policy remains to be seen, but for now, statements from the Agriculture Department and EPA indicate that the administration remains firm in its support for the renewable-fuels standard.
This article appears in the April 18, 2013 edition of NJ Daily as Long List of Lobbies Oppose Renewable-Fuels Standard.