The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


API, chain restaurants, EWG ask Congress to change RFS; while farmers thank EPA for pulling back

Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that it will not issue volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard this year, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Environmental Working Group today called on Congress to change or repeal the RFS, while farm groups thanked EPA for not finalizing its proposal, and members of Congress called for certainty.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard said the administration’s decision “to punt on this year’s RFS standards is a clear demonstration to Congress that the Renewable Fuel Standard has become completely unworkable and must be repealed.”

National Council of Chain Restaurants Executive Director Rob Green issued a statement saying “In a bizarre move, the EPA inexplicably ignored the law and refused to make a crucial final decision on the 2014 RFS volumes.”

“By backtracking on their initial recommendation on the ethanol mandate quota, the White House and EPA have chosen to accommodate a small group of ethanol lobbyists at the expense of American consumers and diners, the nation’s small business restaurant owners and all businesses that support and sustain the food supply chain,” Green continued.

“Members of Congress should take note. The federal RFS ethanol mandate is irrevocably broken and needs to be repealed immediately. It is time that Congress take the RFS ‘off the menu’ once and for all,” he concluded.

Mike Lavender, EWG’s policy analyst, said, “Today's announcement is further evidence that Congress must reform our badly broken food-to-fuel policies.”

“By failing to reduce the amount of corn ethanol blended into gasoline, the Obama administration today missed an opportunity to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Lavender said.

“If we hope to reverse climate change, we need greenhouse gas reductions now, not in 2025, and reducing the amount of corn ethanol in gasoline is among the most effective tools at the administration’s disposal. We urge the administration to quickly finalize a RVO that paves the way for ruly ‘green’ biofuels.”

National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said the announcement showed the Obama administration “recognizes the proposed rule was inherently flawed and based on an unworkable methodology.”

“Corn farmers have produced a second record crop in two years, resulting in corn prices that have fallen below the cost of production in many parts of the country,” Bowling said.

“Our members have been frustrated by the uncertainty and delays surrounding the RFS,” he said. “When the time came for them to speak up, they did so — loudly and forcefully.”

“Our growers and allies sent the EPA a clear signal when this proposal was first issued, with nearly 200,000 people responding to the public comment opportunity in opposition to the reduction. Nearly 10,000 farmers called the White House directly. We have never before seen so much grassroots interest in a particular issue. Our farmers will continue to raise our voices as necessary in defense of this important policy.”

American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said “The continued delays create great uncertainty for the biodiesel industry and soybean farmers and limits the industry’s ability to invest and expand.”

“The proposed rule was unacceptable and would have taken biodiesel backward from the amounts produced and utilized in 2013,” Gaesser said.

“However, ASA believes that EPA can and should finalize a 2014 rule that sets the biomass-based diesel volumes at or above the nearly 1.8 billion gallons that were produced and consumed in the U.S. in 2013.”

Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe thanked EPA “for listening to the concerns of the renewable energy industry and not finalizing a clearly flawed proposal that would have had major ramifications for the U.S. economy and the climate.”

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said the decision “continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry.”

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood stated his members “appreciate” that EPA will not finalize its proposed rule but said “unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations.”

“The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts,” Greenwood said.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson called the decision “a serious disappointment.”

“Ethanol and all biofuels have been the best thing to happen to farm country in generations, and the volume standards that are supposed to be set by EPA are a significant help in establishing the market for biofuels,” said Johnson.

“We’re hopeful that the EPA will now be able to address the flaw for both immediate and future target levels.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said “This significant delay and inability of the EPA to set standards for the [RFS] creates unneeded uncertainty in the marketplace.”

“Even though EPA took the appropriate course in reconsidering its proposed rule after receiving substantial pushback from rural America, Farm Bureau continues to believe that adhering to the framework of the RFS2 remains the best approach.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the announcement showed “how deeply flawed the EPA’s original RFS rule was.”

“The EPA needs to work toward a new rule in 2015 that will provide long-term certainty needed for the advanced biofuels industry to give real competition to Big Oil at the gas pump,” Stabenow said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said “The reprieve is mixed news for the farmers and biofuel producers who have responded to the call for more homegrown, renewable energy.”

“The administration’s ill-conceived proposal would have caused real harm to farmers, producers, and consumers,” Grassley said. “It would have increased dependence on oil and protected the stranglehold Big Oil has on our country’s fuel supply.”

“Still, the administration doesn’t deserve praise,” Grassley said. “Creating uncertainty for everybody who works in this industry isn’t a good way to do business. No one knows what kind of proposal the administration might offer next year.”

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the announcement “leaves the future of ethanol, biodiesel and other advanced biofuels up in the air.”

“The proposed reductions to the RFS were unacceptable and, while the uncertainty created by today's announcement is not helpful, I hope that it will give the EPA the time needed to do the right thing,” Peterson said.