Iowa elected officials seek hearing on proposed renewable fuels standard changes

State officials want President Obama to “see firsthand the many benefits of biofuels..."

James Q. Lynch
Published: December 12 2013 | 5:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:47 am in
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Citing national security as well as benefits for clean air, the economy and consumers, Iowa political leaders are urging the Obama administration to come to Iowa to learn more about the impact of its proposed reduction in the renewable fuel standard.

In response to the proposed reduction, Gov. Terry Branstad, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Tom Latham and Steve King, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey have invited the president, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Gina McCarthy to visit one of Iowa’s 55 biofuels facilities to “see firsthand the many benefits of biofuels and the broad importance of a robust (renewable fuel standard).”

The invitation along with a request for a public hearing in Iowa on the change were made in response to the EPA proposal last month that would reduce the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the RFS.

The proposal would lower the required consumption of conventional renewable fuel to 13.01 billion gallons, despite the law mandating consumption of 14.4 billion gallons, and below the 2013 level of 13.8 billion gallons. It also provides that biodiesel remains at 1.28 billion gallons.

Those changes, the Iowa elected officials said, would severely damage the renewable energy industry.

“Biofuels have diversified America’s energy portfolio, strengthened our national security by reducing reliance on foreign oil, reduced transportation fuel emissions, given consumers lower cost options, and energized rural America by increasing family farm incomes and creating high-skilled, rewarding careers,” they wrote to Obama, McCarthy and Vilsack, the former Iowa governor.

The issue is of vital importance for Iowa because the state is the leader in renewable fuels production. Iowa has 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing over 3.8 billion gallons annually, with three cellulosic ethanol facilities currently under construction. Iowa also has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually.

Also, nearly 60,000 are supported by the renewable fuels industry in Iowa, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

In seeking a public hearing in Iowa to give Midwestern farmers an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes, Grassley faulted the EPA as one of the federal agencies that too often makes major policy changes “without considering the people and the economies affected.”

“Now, supporters of clean, homegrown, green energy and forward-thinking energy policy are united in letting the Obama administration know that its proposal is short-sighted and irresponsible, and that the administration should hear from Midwesterners before making such a sweeping policy change,” Grassley said.

The point of the renewable fuel standard was to “steadily increase contributions from biofuels … enhance our nation’s energy security, protect the environment, and create jobs.”

The volume projections released by the EPA “would reverse these efforts, ignoring the clear intent of the law as well as our nation’s capacity both to produce and utilize renewable fuels,” Harkin said. “I am encouraged to see the Iowa delegation is united in an effort to increase these targets and reaffirm the purpose of the RFS.”

The current renewable fuel standard “has been great for Iowa and great for America,” King said.

“It is the only tool that provides market access to ethanol and other renewable fuels so they can be sold in competition with petroleum,” he said. “I will continue to show my unwavering support for the RFS and am glad to have joined with my colleagues to let the EPA know we want them to keep their hands off the RFS.”

Iowans understand the importance of a strong renewable energy industry, according to Braley because “every day, we see examples of job creation, rural economic growth, and lower gas prices created by renewable fuels.”

“Iowans can all agree a scaling back of the RFS is bad for Iowa,” Braley said. “That’s why the EPA should hold hearings here in Iowa about its proposed reduction in the RFS. Listening to Iowans will allow them to understand that the proposed rule will negatively impact the renewable energy industry, putting job growth at risk and threatening the Midwestern economy.”

The EPA had a hearing in suburban Washington to discuss proposed changes. However, the Iowa officials said it’s important to “the hard-working men and women in Iowa and across the Midwest deserve the opportunity to make the case at a hearing in the Heartland.”

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