National Journal: Two Senate Panels Compete for Control Over Ethanol Mandate

June 10, 2013

Amy Harder, June 9, 2013- Two Senate committees are wrestling over a critical energy policy that influences prices of both fuel and food: the renewable-fuels standard that mandates an increasing amount of biofuels—mostly corn-based ethanol—to be blended with gasoline each year.

The two panels that set energy and environment policy both want jurisdiction over the mandate, which has come under intense scrutiny from both parties in the past year. The standard is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is squarely in the wheelhouse of the Environment and Public Works Committee. That puts the burden on the backs of Energy and Natural Resources Committee leaders to argue why they should have top billing on the issue.

“We obviously feel we do,” said Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., regarding which committee has primary jurisdiction over the renewable-fuels standard, or RFS.

The mandate was created by a 2005 energy bill and expanded under another measure in 2007. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has primary jurisdiction over issues involved with both those laws.

Wyden also noted that the RFS involves fuel, a primary focus of his committee. “That’s the operative word,” Wyden said, adding that he wants to talk to his colleagues, including Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., before commenting more on the issue.

Murkowski and Wyden seem to be on the same page. “When you think about the initiatives that we have identified as priorities, one of them is how we can consume less, and the RFS allows us to be consuming less when it comes to our oil,” Murkowski said.

When asked which committee has primary jurisdiction over the mandate, Murkowski smiled. “Of course, that’s the great debate,” she said. “There are those that would argue that it’s not the Energy Committee, that it’s the EPW Committee. As with many issues, it may be that you have aspects of the issue that reside in different committees.”