Don't Mess With RFS

High Plains / Midwest Ag Journal

July 6, 2015

By Doug Rich

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad summed up the feelings of many when he told the Environmental Protection Agency not to mess with the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Branstad was one of many who offered testimony at the public hearing for the proposed RFS for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and biomass-based diesel volume for 2017 under the RFS program. The public hearing was held in Kansas City, Kansas, on June 25.

Even though EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to set annual standards for the RFS program each year it has not done so since 2013. Now it is proposing to reduce those volumes below the statutory levels established by Congress.

EPA cites two reasons for reducing these volumes. First, it cited limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them. Secondly, it cites limitations in the ability of the industry to produce sufficient volumes of qualifying renewable fuel, particularly non-ethanol fuels.

“The EPA has a choice—protect the deep pockets of Big Oil and their monopolistic practices or nurture consumer choice, renewable energy growth and a healthy rural economy,” Branstad said. “Unless you advance a robust RFS, you will constrain growth in the rural economy, negatively impacting family farms, agribusiness and the biofuels industries, the citizens and businesses that are part of our nation’s rural fabric.

“The EPA’s indecision the last two years led to market uncertainty that hurt farmers and froze investment in next generation technology,” Branstad said. “My hope is that the EPA is open to improving the proposal much further and meeting the original congressional intent of expanding the use of biofuels throughout the country.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon followed Branstad with his testimony to EPA. Nixon reminded EPA farmers in Missouri and across the Midwest stepped up years ago to invest in ethanol plants before there was any guarantee of a return on their investment because they thought it was the right thing to do. Nixon said these farmers were the first to step up and say they will do what is needed to break Americans loose from the dependence on foreign oil.

“The current proposal, that we are dealing with here today, continues to fail in significant ways to meet the renewable targets that are part of the law,” Nixon said. “That is not the way we do things in Missouri, we don’t stop plowing 80 percent of the way through the field.”

Nixon added that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established renewable fuel standards including specific volume requirements. This was done to stimulate investment in renewable fuels to promote cleaner air and less reliance on foreign oil supplies.

“We invested big time with risk,” Nixon said. “There were no guarantees.”

Farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association also presented testimony at this public hearing. Bob Henry, a farmer from Robinson, Kansas, and a board member of the American Soybean Association, stated that the biodiesel industry has grown to a point of producing well over 1 billion gallons annually and has the capacity to produce over 3 billion gallons of advanced biofuels annually.

“We are glad that, compared to last year’s proposal which called for just 1.28 billion gallons for 2014 and 2015, EPA’s new proposed rule increases the volumes for biomass-based diesel starting with 1.64 billion gallons in 2014 and increasing to 1.9 billion in 2017,” Henry said. “However, for the many benefits that biodiesel provides, we think EPA should enthusiastically support more aggressive, but easily achievable, volume targets for biodiesel. We see no reason why EPA should not, at a minimum, support biomass-based diesel volumes of at least 2 billion gallons or more for 2016 and 2017.”

Chip Bowling, a third generation farmer from Maryland, is president of the National Association of Corn Growers. Bowling said corn growers in this country continue to produce record amounts of corn and for that reason need to protect and promote markets for that production.

“We simply cannot afford, and will not tolerate, efforts to cut the demand for corn and that’s exactly what your proposal will do,” Bowling told the EPA. “We have done our part and our allies in the ethanol industry have done their part. It is time the EPA sided with those of us supporting a domestic, renewable fuel that is better for the environment.”

Across the street from the Jack Reardon Center where the EPA hearing was held over 450 RFS supporters gathered for the Rally for Rural America. Farmers, politicians, fuel industry leaders, FFA students from the across the country and ethanol supporters gathered to protest the EPA proposal to slash the level of renewable fuel required to be blended in the national fuel supply by nearly 4 billion gallons through 2016.

Kevin Hurst, president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, summed up in his testimony how many farmers at the hearing felt.

“Today I could and should be planting,” Hurst said. “Instead I again have to spend time away from my farm to remind the EPA they are ignoring the law.”

Read the original story here : Don't Mess With RFS