Counter-offensive to defend RFS continues

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 19, 2015

The ethanol industry’s counter-offensive to attacks on the renewable fuel standard (RFS) continues to pick up steam, leading up to November’s expected announcement on the renewable volume obligations.

After Growth Energy and Renewable Fuels Association jumped on a University of Tennessee report  critical of corn ethanol last week, the agency working with the Fuels America Coalition, Smoot Tewes Group, sent out a memo to those that may be covering the Brookings Institute Panel or the U.S. EPA inspector general’s research on the lifecycle impacts of the RFS. The group questioned the objectivity of the Brookings Institute which received $430,000 from ExxonMobil in 2014 and its director of environmental and energy economics, Ted Gayer, who has long-held ties to the oil industry.

The media advisory also cited a news release statement from Jeremy Funk, communications director for the pro-renewable fuels group, Americans United for Change. Funk questioned the neutrality of two panelists in the Brooking Institute’s webinar:  “We hope Mr. [Chris] Knittel and Mr. [Timothy] Searchinger will be transparent about their financial ties to Big Oil and not present themselves as objective critics of the RFS.” Funk noted “there is mountains of academic research showing that ethanol use significantly cuts down carbon emissions compared to gasoline made from dirty fossil fuels, whether it be from the Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and others.”

On the same day, the RFA released a statement critical of another oil industry-backed effort—an advertising campaign being launched by Smarter Fuel Future calling for the repeal of the RFS. “The oil industry thinks it’s being slick by engaging in a consistent and relentless misinformation campaign that is based on false assumptions, straw dogs, and half-truths,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “There is nothing that Big Oil is spouting with this latest wave of scare tactics that we haven’t seen before. Once again the petroleum industry is making patently false assumptions about the relationship between food and fuel. In 2014, a record corn crop sent prices to four-year lows, and more grain was available globally for food and feed use than ever before. In fact, less than 3 percent of the global grain supply that year was used for ethanol.

“The Big Oil misinformation campaign also makes spurious claims about ethanol’s impact on the environment. Lifecycle analyses by the Department of Energy and others, including the University of Illinois, the International Energy Agency, and Life Cycle Associates have shown that, since the final RFS rule was implemented, grain ethanol produced today reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared to fossil fuels — even when hypothetical land use emissions are taken into account. Ethanol production from last year reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 million metric tons — the equivalent of removing 8.4 million cars from the road. These facts show that investment in biofuels in general and ethanol in particular is critical if we are serious as a nation about creating a future where our energy is cleaner, more secure, and more affordable.

“Congress and the administration should pay little heed to Big Oil’s latest smoke and mirrors campaign. Instead of repealing the RFA, the administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, needs to break down the supposed ‘blend wall’ and implement the RFS the way Congress intended,” Dineen’s statement concluded.