Big Corn Vs. Big Oil: Lobbyists Look To Sway EPA Officials On Biofuel Standards

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Jack Crowe Political Reporter
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Lobbyists representing the corn and oil industries made opposing cases regarding the ideal volume of federally mandated biofuel in the nation’s fuel supply during an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing Tuesday.

EPA officials heard from dozens of industry representatives that were invited to speak at the hearing to provide feedback on the agency’s proposed 2018 biofuel standards.

Oil industry representatives criticized the EPA’s proposed biofuel standards, arguing that the requirements fail to reflect market realities, while ethanol industry representatives celebrated the proposed standards as a positive step forward and pushed for further increases. (RELATED: EPA Charts Middle Course With New Renewable Fuel Mandate)

While renewable fuel standards have increased year after year since their inception in 2014, the proposed standards for 2018 maintain the 15 billion gallon mandate set for the previous year.

Ethanol industry representatives cast increased biofuel standards as a vital market signal that will ensure continued technological advancement and investment in the production of the corn based fuel.

Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council (ABBC), emphasized the important role that renewable fuel standards serve in furthering investment in America’s rural communities.

“Cellulosic biofuels are poised to drive the next great wave of manufacturing investments across the heartland of the United States,” Coleman said during his testimony. “For this administration to succeed in rebuilding the rural economy, the EPA must set forward-looking targets for cellulosic production. Any retreat sends an unmistakable signal to investors that the U.S. is no longer fertile ground for innovation.”

Coleman was joined in his push for increased biofuel standards by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who testified in support of increasing the EPA’s proposed standards, arguing that Iowa’s corn growers were up to the task of producing more ethanol.

“I urge the EPA to raise the advanced biofuel, biodiesel and cellulosic volumes,” Reynolds said. “The RFS is a bold policy, and Iowans and the industry as a whole have always risen to the challenge.”

Geoff Moody of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) disputed Reynolds’ assertion, arguing that biofuel producers have failed to meet renewable fuel standards in previous years and that the slight reduction in 2018’s cellulosic requirements, a term used to denote biofuel derived from plant matter, will be insufficient.

“In years past the EPA has tried to use the standards as a way to drive the cellulosic industry and has really overestimated the commercial availability of these gallons,” Moody told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “For instance in 2017 they required more than 300 million gallons of cellulosic when we were only on track to produce a little over 200. Our members were left short by 100 million so they had to buy phantom fuels credits credits, a term we use for credits you pay to the government for fuel that doesn’t exist.”

Moody explained that the EPA’s tendency to overestimate the level of cellulosic fuel production has forced refiners to import biofuel from over seas.

“Were going to have to import biodiesel to met these standards that were supposedly enacted to increase energy independence and security, its senseless,” Moody said. “The point we’re trying to drive home here is that these things need to be based in production and not this aspirational framework that the previous administration applied.”

The EPA is expected to release its final ruling on 2018 renewable fuel standards Aug. 31.

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