Possible Actions on Renewable Energy & Fuels in the 114th Congress
(Environmental and Energy Study Institute) … In early 2014, (Senator James M.) Inhofe (R-OK) expressed interest in repealing the RFS, and instead focus on expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling. Inhofe wrote that the RFS should be repealed, “allow[ing] ethanol and other biofuels to compete on a level playing field with all other transportation fuels”— a common refrain of renewable energy foes. Ironically, Inhofe makes no mention of the $4.8 billion in taxpayer funded subsidies to the oil and gas industry each year. But it is clear, without the support of the EPW Chairman, challenges to the RFS will be brought forward. In looking over previous anti-RFS legislation from the 113th Congress, a few patterns emerge. It is likely that efforts to modify the RFS could include capping ethanol at ten percent of fuel volumes, blocking or hindering mid-level blends, and possibly cuts to corn ethanol from the mandate. And while many environmentalists would like to see the focus shift solely to advanced fuels, such as those sourced from agricultural or other wastes, corn ethanol has provided the marketplace for the nascent advanced fuels categories. Indeed, many cellulosic plants coming online today are bolt-on technologies to existing corn ethanol facilities. Therefore, these two industries’ fates are intrinsically tied together and are both important to the future of biofuel and biobased products and our ability to move away from oil dependency.
What remains to be seen is if any of these bills could achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and make it to a vote on the Senate floor. Hopefully, it will not come to that point; the importance of support beyond the ‘corn belt’ cannot be ignored. The industry itself has already had ‘1000 cuts’; distribution has been severely limited by infrastructure issues created by the oil and gas industry; public perception issues still loom large, and a long-delayed 2014 renewable volume obligates (RVOs) has chilled industry investments in new technologies and feedstocks. The result is an industry that is increasingly looking abroad for investor certainty, as China, South America and Europe still remain bullish on renewable fuels. Therefore, it would be unwise for the industry to rely on historic support. Instead, the case needs to be made as to why ethanol and other biofuels are important to every district and state, by lowering prices at the pump, reducing reliance on oil, creating jobs and a globally competitive industry, and lowering exposure to toxic tailpipe emissions. READ MORE and MORE (The Guardian)