Another Battle Looms in the Endless Ethanol War

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 25: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (R), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) speak about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. The news conference was held to discuss immigration control issues that are before Congress. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Clare Foran
Add to Briefcase
Clare Foran
Dec. 4, 2013, 4:19 p.m.

The de­bate over the re­new­able-fuel stand­ard flared up again this week ahead of a hear­ing the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency will hold on Thursday to so­li­cit feed­back on a pro­pos­al to lower the 2014 pro­duc­tion man­date.

In­terest groups from both sides of the de­bate have found com­mon ground on one point — they want the pro­pos­al changed. But that’s where the con­sensus ends.

Bio­fuels back­ers say the EPA’s pro­posed cut­backs go too far. Ad­vanced Bio­fuels As­so­ci­ation Pres­id­ent Mi­chael McAdams called the 2014 levels an­nounced last month a “woe­fully in­ad­equate tar­get,” and re­ferred to the draft as the “in­dustry’s worst night­mare” dur­ing a call with re­port­ers on Wed­nes­day.

The oil and gas in­dustry and oth­er in­terest groups, in­clud­ing res­taur­ant and poultry as­so­ci­ations, say that while EPA’s de­cision to po­ten­tially lower next year’s re­new­able-fuel volume ob­lig­a­tions is a step in the right dir­ec­tion, the man­date needs to be dis­as­sembled. And they’re look­ing for a le­gis­lat­ive fix.

“We’ve al­ways main­tained that the ac­tions of the EPA will be short-term in nature, and we really are look­ing to mem­bers of Con­gress to ad­dress this severely flawed and out­dated re­new­able-fuel stand­ard,” Charles Dre­vna, pres­id­ent of the Amer­ic­an Fuel and Pet­ro­chem­ic­al Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­ation, said Wed­nes­day dur­ing a press call.

Eth­an­ol back­ers dis­agree, say­ing that au­thor­ity to amend the man­date should re­main with EPA des­pite their cri­ti­cism of the agency’s most re­cent pro­pos­al.

“[This] is en­tirely an ad­min­is­trat­ive chal­lenge,” Brooke Cole­man, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Ad­vanced Eth­an­ol Coun­cil, told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. “While mem­bers of Con­gress can and should weigh in on the mat­ter, there is no need for any sort of le­gis­la­tion. We have is­sues with the pro­pos­al and will seek to get it fixed ad­min­is­trat­ively. But as we have said all along, EPA has the au­thor­ity it needs to ad­min­is­ter the law prop­erly without fur­ther ac­tion by Con­gress.”

Con­gress has so far been slow to take up the is­sue any­way, and there’s spec­u­la­tion that EPA’s move to lower the tar­gets might make law­makers less likely to act.

“I do think that EPA ac­tion took the pres­sure off, at least mo­ment­ar­ily,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. “But the pres­sure for Con­gress to act isn’t go­ing away. If any­thing, EPA’s de­cision shows that there’s a grow­ing con­sensus that the man­date is not work­ing.”

What is clear, however, is that ac­tion won’t come this year — at least not in the House. A spokes­per­son for the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee con­firmed that there are no hear­ings planned on the is­sue for the re­mainder of the year.

“I doubt there will be much of an ap­pet­ite for mov­ing le­gis­la­tion un­til the rule­mak­ing for 2014 shakes out,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Cal­if. “My hope is that my col­leagues will come back next year ready to dis­cuss and ap­prove real, whole­sale changes to the RFS.”

Costa and Welch, along with Reps. Bob Good­latte, R-Va., and Steve Womack, R-Ark., have in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion to lim­it the total amount of eth­an­ol re­finers would need to blend with gas­ol­ine un­der the man­date. The bill re­mains pending in com­mit­tee.

In Novem­ber, aides for Sens. Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told Na­tion­al Journ­al that the sen­at­ors were work­ing to­geth­er to draft le­gis­la­tion to elim­in­ate the corn-eth­an­ol man­date from the stand­ard. But the le­gis­la­tion has not yet sur­faced, and neither of­fice re­spon­ded to a re­quest for com­ment on the status of the meas­ure on Wed­nes­day.

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
15 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×