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Ethanol groups: Speak up now for RFS!

DANIEL LOOKER 12/23/2013 @ 11:28am Business Editor

If you think it's a mistake for EPA to scale back its ethanol blending mandate, the Renewable Fuel Standard, you have until January 28 to let the agency know. EPA's proposed 2014 RFS of about 13 billion gallons is smaller than the 2013 level and some 1 billion gallons short of where it should be under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The biofuels industry sees it as a major reversal that caves into oil industry pressure from the so-called blend wall. Even speculation about the rule has depressed corn futures.

Groups like the Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) urge you to contact EPA and members of Congress.

"We're asking them to include their personal stories," says Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE, which represents many farmer-owned ethanol plants. "It's the personal things about how this affects their families, their farms, their communities that are going to stand out."

Jennings says farmers should also cite the facts that support a higher RFS.

"Make the legal argument that EPA doesn't have the authority to do this," Jennings suggests. At an EPA hearing on its plan to scale back the RFS, his group said Congress never intended to let EPA weaken the RFS just because oil companies refuse to sell more than 10% ethanol.

Jennings says there are four ways around the so-called blend wall of E10: selling E15 (15% ethanol approved for 2001 and newer vehicles), selling E85, blending credits that oil companies trade with each other (renewable identification numbers, or RINs), and biodiesel.

In its rule, EPA didn't consider E15, Jennings says. "E15 may not be as substantial today as anyone would like, but E15 is a reality," he says.

(Find more talking points at the ACE website, ethanol.org.)

EPA is already under pressure to change. A bipartisan group of 16 senators met with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy last month. The governor and entire congressional delegation from Iowa want EPA to hold another hearing in that state. About 11,000 people have already submitted comments, says Tom Buis, CEO of another ethanol group, Growth Energy.

To submit comments, visit EPA's webpage on RFS rules. That page will direct you to another website, regulations.gov.

Or, you can visit many websites that will make it easier, including that of Buis' group (growthenergy.org). If you visit its home page, you submit a form that Growth sends to EPA. Many other groups are doing the same thing, Buis says, including the National Corn Growers Association, Fuels America, Renewable Fuels Association, Americans United for Change, and Vote Vets.

"They all get it," Buis says. The oil industry fears expansion of biofuels. "You have the wealthiest, deepest-pocket industry in the world crying foul. This is about market share. They gave up 10% to biofuels. They don't want to give a drop more."

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