David Howell from Middletown, Indiana was one of those speaking Thursday at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Washington. He was trying to make the case for maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard 2014 mandates. EPA has proposed a cut in the required amount of corn ethanol next year. The Henry County corn farmer spoke on behalf of the National Corn Growers association which says the proposed change will hurt rural economies.
“I think it’s clear that it will if it destroys the certainty of that promise of the RFS ruling,” he told HAT late Thursday afternoon. “If we have no surety, particularly the investment and the research in the advanced biofuels it’s going to go away because you can’t put money into something when there are better alternatives than what the government’s going to do next year, and the year after that and the year after that.”
Howell compared EPA’s proposed move to the current national health care rollout.
“I told the group that it’s agriculture’s version of the ‘if you like your plan you can keep your plan’ problem because that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve said we’re there for a time and can build our industry, community and farms around that, and now the rug’s pulled out, potentially. We’re going to be left holding the bag.”
Mike Silver is a grain marketer at Kokomo Grain and he says the future is bright for ethanol, with or without the mandate.
“As long as ethanol production remains profitable and corn remains buyable, the economics of the whole situation are going to take care of itself, mandate or not. We still have some of the most affordable ethanol in the world so we can export ethanol. These plants are going to continue to make ethanol as long as they can,” he told HAT.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen told the EPA that they need to keep in mind why the RFS was first established.
“The RFS was designed to drive investment in new technologies, to drive innovations, to drive new market opportunities. It was NOT designed to be convenient for the oil companies,” he said, adding prices for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, the currency on which the RFS relies, will be hurt by EPA’s proposal to lower the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.
“What you’ve done with this proposal is rip this market-forcing mechanism [the RIN] away, returning us to more petroleum, fewer choices at the pump, more costly gasoline.”
He also made the case that rising RIN values don’t impact consumer gas prices. “There’s no correlation between rising RIN values and gasoline prices.”
He concluded by encouraging the EPA to listen to those making the case today for preserving the RFS as it was written and intended.
“Listen to those people that are concerned about what this program does for rural America, what this program does for consumers, what this program does for new technologies, and revise this [proposal].”
Hear Dinneen’s testimony:Bob Dinneen testimony