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Senators get behind efforts to stop EPA drop in biofuel levels

WASHINGTON D.C. — The oil industry is leading EPA down a dangerous road with its latest proposal for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – that’s what 38 U.S. senators said in recent letter to the agency.

The legislators urged the EPA to ensure the final rule setting blending targets under the RFS for 2018 promotes growth in the U.S. biofuel sector and in the economy.

“When Congress adopted the RFS in 2005, its goal was to put in place stable, forward-looking policy to drive innovation and investments that would bring biofuels to American consumers,” the letter said. “The biofuels industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country, reduces the environmental impact of our transportation and energy sectors and cuts our reliance on foreign oil.”

On Sept. 27 the U.S. EPA published a proposal for reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the RFS program. This kicked off the comment period, which will end on Oct. 19.

These tactics are a back-door strategy by the oil industry to gut the RFS, said POET CEO Jeff Broin. They mirror the efforts last spring by billionaire investor Carl Icahn to remove legal responsibility from oil refiners.

“They are misleading the EPA, and these proposals would stop in its tracks any progress biofuels have made for fuel prices, public health, the environment and national security over the last decade,” Broin said. “We hope President Trump will hold true to his promise to protect the RFS, which is critical to our farmers and rural economies.”

Also, inside sources at EPA have leaked to the media that the agency is also considering putting ethanol credits onto gallons that are exported out of the country, said Matthew Merritt, POET’s director of public relations. Currently, those exported gallons don’t count as fulfilling the RFS.

This hasn’t been publicly confirmed, but it has come up in multiple media reports.

The biodiesel industry and subsidies create an additional 63 cents a bushel of income for soybean farmers, said Indiana grower Alan Kemper, who is a past president of both the American Soybean Assoc. and National Corn Growers Assoc. This country produces about 2.3 billion gallons of biodiesel a year, so lowering that would hurt the already depressed markets.

“We are trading in the Midwest right at the $9 (per bushel) level for soybeans, so if you take 63 cents or a partial off of that, then it very much affects farmer’s bottom line,” Kemper said.

While he said he could ride out the storm, many young people in farming might not be able to do that. “We don’t want to lose, in my opinion, the next generation of agriculture.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), one of the signers of the letter to the EPA, also expressed concern about that agency’s consideration of possible cuts to biofuel blending volumes for 2018 and 2019.

Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “Biofuels are a critical component of an all-in energy strategy. Biofuels are American-grown energy that supports farmers in Indiana while improving our country’s energy independence.

“The EPA’s move towards undercutting biofuels is shortsighted and totally misses the mark. At a time of international tumult, we should be supporting this renewable American energy, not undermining it.”

To read the EPA’s proposal and for information about comments, visit