Senators Pressure EPA to Revise 2014 Renewable-Fuel Standard

TELTOW, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13: Stalks of corn stand under a blue sky during harvest on September 13, 2012 near Teltow, Germany. The annual corn harvest is underway in the German state of Brandenburg, where corn is widely planted and used for animal feed as well as the produciton of biofuels. Analysts recently predicted that German corn farmers are likely to benefit from global warming, as higher temperatures will mean an earlier planting season.
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Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Jan. 23, 2014, 6:32 a.m.

A bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion of sen­at­ors is pres­sur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to do away with pro­posed cuts to the re­new­able-fuel stand­ard, a fed­er­al man­date re­quir­ing set amounts of bio­fuels to be mixed in­to the fuel sup­ply each year. 

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, Al Franken, D-Minn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and 27 oth­er sen­at­ors sent a let­ter to En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy on Thursday ask­ing the agency to amend a pro­pos­al for the stand­ard re­leased in Novem­ber that would lower the total re­new­able volume ob­lig­a­tions for the first time in the man­date’s his­tory.

The pro­pos­al has gen­er­ated heated de­bate as bio­fuels sup­port­ers op­pose any cuts to the stand­ard. The oil in­dustry and oth­ers, mean­while, have lauded EPA for ac­know­ledging its ef­fort to scale back the man­date.

The sen­at­ors, for their part, are sid­ing with the bio­fuels in­dustry and warn that a de­cision to scale-back the man­date would in­crease Amer­ic­an re­li­ance on for­eign sources of fossil fuels and freeze in­vest­ment in the re­new­able-fuel in­dustry, lead­ing to a loss of jobs for those em­ployed by the in­dustry.

“Con­gress passed the RFS to in­crease the amount of re­new­able fuel util­ized in our na­tion’s fuel sup­ply,” the let­ter states, adding: “The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al is a sig­ni­fic­ant step back­ward — un­der­min­ing the goal of in­creas­ing bio­fuels pro­duc­tion as a do­mest­ic al­tern­at­ive to for­eign oil con­sump­tion.”

Also on Thursday, EPA sent let­ters to the Amer­ic­an Pet­ro­leum In­sti­tute, the largest trade as­so­ci­ation for the U.S. oil and nat­ur­al-gas in­dustry, and the Amer­ic­an Fuel and Pet­ro­chem­ic­al Man­u­fac­tur­ers, a trade as­so­ci­ation rep­res­ent­ing fuel man­u­fac­tur­ers, grant­ing re­quests by both or­gan­iz­a­tions for the agency to re­con­sider its cel­lu­losic bio­fuels stand­ard in the 2013 man­date on the grounds that the tar­get amounts of cel­lu­losic bio­fuels de­term­ined by last year’s man­date are un­real­ist­ic and un­achiev­able.

EPA’s an­nounce­ment that it will take a second look at the 2013 cel­lu­losic tar­get is likely to fur­ther open the door for op­pon­ents of the RFS to push for changes to the man­date. 

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