Fuel Fix: Unusual allies fight renewable fuel standard

February 5, 2013

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Feb. 4- Humanitarians, environmentalists, farmers’ advocates and refiners on Monday came together to demand changes to a renewable fuel mandate they said is wiping out wetlands and driving food costs higher.

The assembled groups are asking Congress to revise — or completely repeal — the eight-year-old renewable fuel standard that requires refiners to blend steadily increasing amounts of ethanol and other alternatives — up to 36 billion gallons in 2022 — into the nation’s transportation fuel supply.

“It’s pretty emblematic of the problem with this whole renewable fuel standard that you have such a disparate group of people all saying that … the RFS is unrealistic and impractical to the point that it should be repealed by Congress,” said Charlie Drevna, the head of American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers.

Drevna’s refiners group was joined by ActionAid, the Environmental Working Group, FarmEcon, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Taxpayers for Common Sense in arguing for changes to the renewable fuel standard on Monday. The groups plan to make their pitch to lawmakers and their aides on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The groups are part of an increasingly vigorous push against the RFS, led by the oil industry as it hits the so-called “blend wall,” the practical ceiling on how much biofuel can be blended into the nation’s gasoline, given a 10 percent limit on the amount of ethanol in the most commonly available transportation fuel.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last month spiked the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 requirement under the RFS for refiners to blend in 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels made from grasses, solid waste and other non-edible material, after concluding it was unrealistic. Because virtually no cellulosic biofuels have been available for sale, refiners have had to buy waiver credits from the EPA — at a rate of 78 cents per gallon — to comply with the mandate.

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