Feinstein, Coburn offer bill to end corn ethanol mandate

US Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a bill that would eliminate the corn ethanol mandate within the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel blended into gasoline refined and consumed in the US.

“Under the corn ethanol mandate in the RFS, roughly 44% of US corn is diverted from food to fuel, pushing up the cost of food and animal feed and damaging the environment,” Feinstein said. “Oil companies are also unable to blend more corn ethanol into gasoline without causing problems for automobiles, boats, and other vehicles.

“I strongly support requiring a shift to low-carbon advanced biofuel, including biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and other revolutionary fuels. But a corn ethanol mandate is simply bad policy,” she continued.

“This misguided policy has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, increased fuel prices, and made our food more expensive,” Coburn said. “Eliminating this mandate will let market forces, rather than political and parochial forces, determine how to diversify fuel supplies in an ever-changing marketplace.”

Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker, (R-Tenn.), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) are co-sponsors.

Their action came a day after two federal officials told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that future US alternative transportation fuels research, development, and deployment will concentrate on advance biofuels more compatible with existing distribution systems and engines than ethanol refined from corn (OGJ Online, Dec. 11, 2013).

Calls for reforms

At that hearing, Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the committee, called for balanced reforms in the RFS that address concerns which have emerged since the RFS was expanded under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

“The last changes to the RFS 7 years ago were based on critical economic assumptions, like rising gasoline consumption, sufficient availability of corn for fuel and food production, and industry’s ability to rapidly developed truly advanced biofuels that turned out to be false,” he said.

“The status quo is unsustainable, yet full repeal of the RFS would set back years of progress and the promise of a clean energy future and destroy thousands of sustainable jobs in a technology sector that has tremendous promise for our nation,” Cardin said, adding he has been working on reforms with several other senators from both sides of the aisle for several months.

The American Petroleum Institute immediately applauded Feinstein and Coburn’s bill. “Repealing corn ethanol mandates is the first step toward protecting consumers from outdated and costly public policy,” API Downstream Director Bob Greco said.

“EPA’s proposal to lower the 2014 mandates could provide a stopgap, but Congress needs to deliver a long-term solution to provide certainly for consumers,” he maintained. “Requirements set back in 2007 could soon push ethanol levels in gasoline above what is safe for most cars on the road today.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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