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RFS Debate Heating Up

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RFS center stage in DC

Ethanol industry leaders and Midwest farmers are in Washington DC this week making another push of support for the Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS and the 15 percent ethanol fuel known as E15. The industry comes under a new attack every day, according to Growth Energy Co-Chairman General (Ret.) Wesley Clark, but those wanting to eliminate the RFS have nothing new to say.

“It’s the same old charges,” he said. “I think when you look at where we are right now, we’re exactly where those who approved the renewable fuels act in 2005 and later 2007 wanted us to be. Our domestic production of biofuels is improving. Cellulosic ethanol is under development right now and we’ll have our first plants producing in commercial quantities in probably less than a year from now, and we’ll be leading the world in this source of fuel.”

He says that’s a little frightening for the oil industry and it’s a matter of economics. Americans aren’t driving as much so there is no growth in liquid fuel consumption.

“Under the regulatory authorities of the Clean Air Act we’re at 10 percent ethanol right now, approved to go to 15 percent ethanol, so 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol will be put into that fuel. We’d like to see another 6.8 billion gallons put in that fuel. It would make the fuel less expensive, equally effective, and cleaner. But that’s what the fight’s about because that’s less market for the oil industry in America.

Clark adds that growth in the renewable fuels industry requires scale for the commodity projects involved, “and the RFS is what gives the opportunity for the biofuels technology to scale.”

While the ethanol industry meets with D.C. lawmakers, Wednesday four U.S. congressmen announced intentions to introduce the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act. They say it will “help ease concerns created by the ethanol mandate and protect consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, retailers and the U.S. economy.”

Among those supporting the act to reform the biofuels mandate are the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council.

The National Corn Growers Association, opposed to the legislation, says the law would eliminate the corn-based ethanol requirements and would cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent.