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Published July 28, 2014, 09:11 AM

Senators push to maintain RFS

WASHINGTON — White House counselor John Podesta told a group of senators July 24 that reduced volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2014 are imminent, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — White House counselor John Podesta told a group of senators July 24 that reduced volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2014 are imminent, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.

Franken said Podesta signaled that the volumetric requirements will be higher than in the Environmental Protection Agency’s initial proposal, but not as high as they would be if EPA followed the volumetric requirements established in the law that is the basis for the RFS.

EPA reduced the requirement for corn-based ethanol after complaints that ethanol use was causing corn prices to rise and higher blends would be required because overall gas use is down.

The agency also reduced the biodiesel and cellulosic biofuel requirements on the basis that industries might not be able to produce enough fuel.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Agweek she has not established a date to release the volumetric requirements.

“I realize that this particular year is a difficult one,” McCarthy said. “EPA tried to get all the numbers out in the supply system. I think the biofuels industry knows we are working hard, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long.”

The Obama administration, she said, would continue to push the biofuels industry forward.

McCarthy declined to comment on the Podesta meeting because she was not present.

Franken said Podesta came to his office to meet with him and nine other senators, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

“We made our case that we believe that the levels they set send the wrong signals to the market,” Franken said.

But Franken said he emphasized that EPA’s plan to cut the volumetric requirement for biodiesel to 1.28 billion gallons would be particularly onerous because the industry produced almost 1.8 billion gallons last year.

Franken said the senators told Podesta the administration should retain higher standards because biofuels are domestically produced and create jobs. They also told him the oil industry’s arguments against higher levels of biofuels are wrong and that the oil industry is doing everything in its power to stop gas stations from selling biofuels.

Oil companies have been putting pressure on gas stations not to put in the blender pumps needed to market the fuel, while independents are putting them in, Franken said.

“We can go to E15,” Franken said, adding NASCAR has already proven the fuel works. E15 can be used in all cars made after 2001, he said.

“We think the blend wall is an artificial term,” Franken said, referring to the oil industry’s argument against higher levels of biofuels.

“Oil companies don’t like ethanol, they need it for oxygenation, but any more ethanol is a threat to them, less profits for them. They are doing everything they can to prevent the infrastructure from going into place. It is chicken and egg and an anti-trust thing. Oil companies are telling their gas stations not to put in the blender pumps.”

EPA proposed total renewable fuel at 15.21 billion gallons and cellulosic biofuel standard at 17 million gallons, significantly lower than the original target of 1.75 billion gallons, advanced biofuels at 2.2 billion gallons, and maintaining the biomass-based diesel standard for 2014 and 2015 at the 2013 level of 1.28 billion gallons.

Attending the meeting in addition to Franken and Stabenow were Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

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