All Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) wants is for consumers to be able to have the choice to fill up with 15% ethanol all year long. That’s why he introduced H.R. 1736 to extend the current EPA Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to include E15.
“My bill would reverse this antiquated, non-scientific regulation out of EPA that was created in 1990,” said Rep. Smith during an interview at the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) annual legislative fly-in. “It’s about generating interest and enthusiasm by consumers to exercise their choice.”
Smith recognizes that getting any legislation passed during this election year is challenging, but he hopes to find a legislative vehicle on which to attach the bill.
In this interview he also makes some comments about the budget and appropriations process going on in Congress right now: Interview with Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE)
ACE 2016 DC Fly-in Photo Album
As we all know in this contentious presidential campaign, most candidates spend at least as much time attacking their opponents as they do talking about their own good qualities and experience. That is a strategy that the ethanol industry should employ more often, according to an experienced political strategist.
Paul Tewes of the Smoot Tewes Group (STG) has 20 years experience as a political operative and he believes that in the ethanol public relations battle, there is a clear villain on the other side. “We’re only going to win if we always make it a contrast with oil,” said Tewes, speaking to members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) meeting in Washington DC this week. “We always have to continue to stress our positives because there are so many of them but we have to contrast that with the negative facts about the oil industry.”
Listen to an interview with Tewes here: Interview with Paul Tewes, Smoot Tewes Group
ACE 2016 DC Fly-in Photo Album
ACE president Ron Alverson (2nd from left) with other members after Hill visits
Nearly 70 grassroots members of the American Coalition for Ethanol
(ACE) stormed the Hill Wednesday at the organization’s 8th annual fly-in.
ACE members participated in more than 125 meetings with lawmakers representing 36 states to convey the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and bipartisan legislation to extend Reid vapor pressure (RVP) relief to E15 and higher ethanol blends.
ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol says his visits on Capitol Hill went very well. “We had good discussions, they asked good questions, generally it was a pretty positive day,” said Alverson, noting that members are much more informed about ethanol than they were just a few years ago.
There is good support among ethanol-friendly members of Congress for the RVP bill, but Alverson says the sense he got from his meetings is that very little will be done this election year. “They said probably nothing at all,” he said.
Alverson is pleased with the turn out for this year’s fly-in, which has grown from just 25 attendees the first year to 60-80 on average now. “Quite frankly, it’s hard to handle more than that,” he said. “We 60 people we can cover the meetings pretty well.”
Listen to my interview with Alverson here: Interview with Ron Alverson, ACE
ACE 2016 DC Fly-in Photo Album
The 8th annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) legislative fly-in is coming up next week, April 13-14, and some 70 members of the organization from about 15 states are planning to attend this year.
“It’s really important that we show the human face of ethanol and renewable fuels,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “We spend a lot of time with our participants to get them to think about the personal side of ethanol and what it has meant to them and we ask them to convey that when they sit in these meetings.”
Jennings says they have meetings set up with over 100 members of Congress or staff during the two days of the event. “We try to seek as many meetings out with so-called opponents of renewable fuels as we can (because) we want our folks to have an opportunity to change hearts and minds, and we know that’s not always easy…we think it’s really important to not just preach to the choir.”
The 2016 election year will definitely play a part in what ethanol supporters will be discussing next week on Capitol Hill. “Not only are we electing a president, but every member of Congress is up for re-election and about one-third of the U.S. Senate,” said Jennings. “The message we want to convey to members of Congress is that it’s in your best interest to continue to support renewable fuels if you have, or give renewable fuels another look if you haven’t been a supporter.”
In addition to meeting with Congressional representatives, fly-in participants will also hear from administration officials and there will be a briefing for Senate staffers by fuel retailers who sell higher blends. “We continue to get attacked on the so-called blend wall…and this is our attempt to have the most effective, persuasive messengers when it comes to the blend wall, retailers who are actually selling E-15 and flex fuels to consumers,” Jennings said.
Fly-in registration information is available at this link on the ACE website. And if you can’t be there in person, stay tuned here for photos and interviews from the event.
Learn all about the ACE Fly-in here: Interview with ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings
A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman this week urging him to examine opportunities to reduce any tariffs on U.S. produced energy, including ethanol, during the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-Tip) negotiations.
“The U.S. ethanol industry has been unfairly targeted by the EU for increased duties (on ethanol) which have subsequently eliminated U.S. share in the European market,” reads the letter from nine members of Congress. “Currently Europe cannot adequately produce enough ethanol for their own market without importing ethanol from foreign sources, such as the U.S.”
“As T-TIP negotiations progress toward completion,” they continued, “we are confident you can leverage access to all domestic energy sources, such as U.S. natural gas, crude, and ethanol in order to achieve a favorable outcome for these industries and the reduction or elimination of trade obstacles to market access in Europe.”
The European Commission imposed a 9.6 percent duty on U.S. ethanol over three years ago in response to an anti-dumping complaint lodged by European ethanol trade group ePURE. In May 2013, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy filed a complaint with the General Court in Luxembourg which is still being litigated challenging the Commission’s decision.
“The duties imposed were unjustified and blatantly protectionist,” says RFA CEO Bob Dinneen. “Sadly, the real losers in this are European consumers that have to pay more for motor fuel because the lowest-cost liquid fuel in the world — U.S. ethanol — has been targeted by their protectionist policy. Since Europe cannot produce sufficient domestic ethanol supply, and must import the fuel from foreign sources, including the U.S., it is time to see the duties removed.”
The House Oversight Subcommittees on Interior and Healthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules held a joint hearing Wednesday to ostensibly examine the Renewable Fuel Standard but was basically an attack on the law.
EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality Director Chris Grundler provided testimony at the hearing and attempted to explain the purpose and intent of the RFS, including what the agency can and cannot do under the law, to obviously unfriendly lawmakers who used the forum to bring up every argument against renewable fuels, from food versus fuel to the blend wall. Grundler repeatedly noted that the job of the EPA was to implement the law as Congress intended. “Introducing new fuels into the marketplace, especially cellulosic biofuels, is not an easy task,” said Grundler. “But that is the challenge Congress took on with the RFS program and we are committed to implementing the program … as Congress intended.”
Purdue economics professor Dr. Wally Tyner was the lone voice on the panel supporting the benefits of the RFS, calling it one of the “appropriate and effective ways to move our economy towards lower GHG emissions.”
No one from the U.S. biofuels industry was invited to testify, which was distressing to the ethanol industry. “Unfortunately, the committee has stacked the witness list with oil company apologists intent upon undermining public support for this important program,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Why is the committee afraid to hear all sides of the debate?”
“Holding a hearing on the RFS without any biofuels stakeholders is unacceptable and defeats the very purpose of what this congressional committee is tasked to accomplish,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “The lack of diversity of opinions on this panel exemplifies political theater designed to drive a false narrative and discredit the success of the RFS. Furthermore, one of the most vocal RFS critics on the witness list was a professor who has been funded by the American Petroleum Institute (API).” He was referring to John DeCicco, a research professor with the University of Michigan Energy Institute, who conducted an unfavorable study on the RFS last year funded by the American Petroleum Institute.
The subcommittees also heard anti-RFS testimony from ActionAid USA and The Heritage Foundation.
During a hearing on Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, on many agency actions, including decisions made regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
In her opening statement, McCarthy defended the volume obligation requirements under that RFS that EPA set last year, “The final requirements boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry,” McCarthy said. “The EPA took steps to improve the administration of the RFS program and continues to approve new agricultural feedstocks, increasing the number of pathways that biofuel producers may use to qualify their biofuel under the program.”
McCarthy was questioned heavily by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) about various aspects of the RFS decision making process, including whether EPA has the authority to abolish the blend wall. “These numbers actually push through the blend wall,” McCarthy answered. King then began to question her about approval to sell E15 year round, which McCarthy said it had, but she backed off when King noted the vapor pressure requirements that keep E15 from being sold in many markets during the summer months.
Listen to McCarthy’s testimony and some of the questioning by committee members here: House Ag Hearing with EPA Chief
As promised, energy was a focus of President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, officially unveiled on Tuesday, with a promise to “move our economy away from energy sources that fuel climate change.”
The budget provides for $7.7 billion in discretionary funding for clean energy research and development across 12 agencies, including $106 million for USDA to “support development of biobased energy sources that range from sustainable and economical forest systems and farm products to increased production of biofuels.”
According to USDA, the budget proposal includes a $25 million increase in competitive research funding to support development of biobased energy sources and earmarks $450 million for the Rural Energy for America Program to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, and renewable energy development through loans and grants.
The president’s budget to be released today would double funding for clean energy research and development by 2020, according to President Obama’s weekly address made on Saturday.
“This will include new investments to help the private sector create more jobs faster, lower the cost of clean energy faster, and help clean, renewable power outcompete dirty fuels in every state,” said Obama. “And while Republicans in Congress are still considering their position on climate change, many of them realize that clean energy is an incredible source of good-paying jobs for their constituents. That’s why we were able to boost clean energy research and development in last year’s budget agreement. And I hope they support my plan to double that kind of investment.”
The president also plans on proposing a $10-a-barrel tax on oil to fund clean energy initiatives.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor on Monday to urge his colleagues to move the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act forward after Democrats blocked the bill and the amendment process last week over an impasse on including aid to address the Flint, Michigan water crisis.
“The Energy Policy Modernization Act is the product of a year’s worth of constructive and collaborative work,” said McConnell. “In the Energy Committee, it passed overwhelmingly with the support of both parties…(and) more than 30 amendments from both Democrats and Republicans have been adopted already.”
McConnell encouraged Democrats to reconsider actions taken last week. “The Energy Policy Modernization Act is broad, bipartisan legislation designed to help Americans produce more energy, pay less for energy, and save energy — all while helping strengthen our long-term national security,” he said. “I’m asking colleagues to take ‘yes’ for an answer and allow the open amendment process to continue — so we can pass it, which is so important to helping our country prepare for the energy demands of today and the energy opportunities of tomorrow.”