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Ethanol lobby hits back against ‘big oil’

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The ethanol lobby has launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign as part of what it calls a “David versus Goliath” battle against the oil industry.

Growth Energy, which supports the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, has launched a nationwide ad campaign to push back against the oil industry’s efforts to repeal the federal blending mandate.

“For far too long Big Oil has run a campaign of misinformation and unsubstantiated attacks against the renewable fuels industry; it is high time consumers get a reality check from Big Oil’s propaganda designed to protect their market share and enable their monopolistic behavior,” the group said.

The ads criticize the oil industry for trying to deprive consumers of choice in their fuels by blocking ethanol blending. The group also claimed that renewable fuels are critical to national security, mainly through sending less money to buy oil from violent regimes in the Middle East.

“We should not be sending more American dollars to feed these regimes,” said retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who now serves as co-chairman for Growth Energy, in a press call Monday. (BEDFORD: How ethanol is wreaking havoc in the Middle East)

While Growth Energy contends that the oil industry’s calls for repeal is about protecting their “market share,” the oil industry and refiners argue it’s about getting rid of a mandate that picks winners and losers and could harm vehicle’s engine systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that 16.55 billions of renewable fuels, including ethanol, be blended into the fuel supply for 2013. Calls for repeal of the mandate grew much louder this year as the price of renewable fuel credits spiked, indicating that the refining industry was near the dreaded “blend wall” — the limit at which refiners are reluctant to blend beyond due to safety concerns.

In this year’s announcement of the blending requirements, the EPA acknowledged concerns about the “blend wall,” but critics says they simply punted the problem down the road.

“While the administration acknowledges that higher ethanol mandates are unworkable by suggesting a new approach for the 2014 standards, EPA missed an opportunity to fix the problem this year,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, who added that Congress should repeal the RFS before it “hurts consumers, damages vehicles, and harms our economy.”

“The premise and structure of the RFS were based on many assumptions that aren’t realistic with current market conditions,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “The EPA has finally realized that there is a major problem with the RFS – the ethanol blend wall – but punted on fixing the problem this year.”

Some have even questioned the benefits to the ethanol mandate, asking why there needs to be a mandate if the fuel additive is such a benefit to consumers.

“I think we need to get rid of it [the RFS] and we need to think of a better way to handle this,” Oklahoma Republican Rep. James Lankford told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It is not that the fuel is economical, it’s not that the fuel is what the consumer wants, it’s that the federal government is requiring this much to be sold.”

“Whole companies have sprung to life knowing that they have a potential of creating a product that the government mandates that everyone purchase,” Lankford added.

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