Biofuel sector calls for course correction under new EPA leadership

Fuels America
Farm Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation’s top ethanol advocates are calling on the newly appointed leader of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to chart a major course correction on annual biofuel targets. Farm leaders and renewable energy innovators urged Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to quickly reverse the damage done under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was dismissed after drawing scorn in struggling rural communities for destroying demand for crop-based biofuels.

“America’s farmers need a level playing field. Amid depressed farm incomes, the certainty of a strong RFS would go a long way to restoring confidence in the agriculture economy,” said Kevin Skunes, president of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and a North Dakota farmer. “The EPA should end the practice of granting unjustified RFS waivers behind closed doors and uphold the strong biofuel targets promised by President Trump. America’s corn growers are ready and able to do our part to increase American energy use and production, and hold down prices at the fuel pump.”

Biofuel leaders also urged the agency to act on the president’s pledge to lift outdated restrictions on the summertime sale of higher ethanol blends, specifically E15, a fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol. In its proposed rule, the agency declined to accept comments on the controversial waiver program or Reid Vapor Pressure restrictions on E15, but advocates are hopeful the new EPA leader is ready to reopen an honest dialogue with rural America. Advocates also launched a web portal at FuelsAmerica.Org/Action-Center, where supporters are invited to make their voice heard during the EPA’s public comment period closing on August 17.

“Acting Administrator Wheeler should not pass up this opportunity to restore the bonds of trust between the EPA and supporters, farmers, and biofuel producers across the heartland,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “By enforcing a strong RFS, he can immediately unleash a new wave of growth in rural America and drive investments in America’s clean energy leadership. With fuel prices spiking, there could not be a better time to drive competition from American-made biofuels.”

“The targets proposed by the EPA seem promising, but they are meaningless unless the agency reverses the demand destruction caused by handouts to refiners,” said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council (ABBC). “Placing a check on that abuse and upholding the strong targets promised by President Trump will unfreeze investments in the advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol, made from agricultural residues and waste. These fuels are delivering new revenue streams to rural America and protecting the climate, but that leadership has been under threat due to regulatory uncertainty.”

“The ethanol produced at more than 200 plants across the heartland is vital to achieving our climate goals,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Industrial & Environmental Section at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). “It cuts carbon emissions by at least 43 percent, according to federal data, and displaces petroleum-based octane boosters linked to harmful air pollution and smog. It’s time for the EPA to send a clear signal that this administration will no longer entertain oil-backed proposals to roll back competition from homegrown biofuels.”

“The EPA’s past mismanagement of the RFS has placed a needless strain on workers, farmers, and rural families that are already bearing the burden of rising trade barriers,” said Kyle Gilley, senior vice president of external affairs and communications at POET. “President Trump and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have promised their full support to rural communities, and now Acting Administrator Wheeler must deliver on that promise by restoring real competition at the fuel pump.”