California ethanol producers ask Feinstein to withdraw bill

By Erin Voegele | August 03, 2021

Three California ethanol producers on July 28 sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urging her to withdraw legislation introduced earlier in the month that aims to make corn ethanol ineligible for meeting Renewable Fuel Standard blending requirements.

The bill, titled the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act, was introduced by Feinstein and Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., on July 20. In a statement introducing the bill, Feinstein made inaccurate claims regarding corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and impact on food costs. “The federal corn ethanol mandate no longer makes sense when better, lower-carbon alternatives exist,” she said. “Corn ethanol achieves little to no reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time to end the mandate and instead support more advanced biofuels and biodiesel that won’t contribute to climate change or drive up the cost of food.”

In the letter, Mike Kandris, CEO of Alto Ingredients; Lyle Schlyer, president of Calgren Renewable Fuels; and Eric McAfee, CEO of Aemetis Inc., dispute the claims Feinstein made and ask her to withdraw the bill.

“As California low carbon ethanol and high protein feed producers we are concerned about legislation you recently introduced, the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act, that if enacted into law would harm our California business operations, while increasing costs for consumers and harming our environment,” they wrote.

The ethanol producers cite data proving ethanol already reduces GHG emissions by 52 percent, on average, when compared to gasoline. Some plants are producing fuel with reductions as high as 75 percent, according to certifications made by the California Air Resources Board.

“For the past decade, ethanol has been the go-to fuel to decarbonize transportation here in the Golden State,” they continued. “The use of ethanol under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) has generated 35 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas savings since the program kicked off in 2011—more than any other low-carbon fuel used in the state. The use of ethanol under California’s LCFS has generated 26.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas savings in the state.”

The letter also provides data on the economic impact of ethanol production in California. Ethanol producers in the state currently have the capacity to produce 210 MMgy, they explained. Those plants can also produce nearly 2 million tons of distillers grains used as feed by California dairy producers. Those products are valued at nearly $800 million annually and support more than 3,500 jobs. Ethanol has also been proven to significantly reduce fuel costs for California drivers, they added.

“Senator, when it comes to facing the climate crisis, this is a time when we need all hands on deck,” Kandris, Schlyer and McAfee wrote. “Low carbon renewable fuels like ethanol have an important role to play in decarbonizing our world in the decades ahead, and it’s a role that is getting stronger as technological improvements make our fuel even better. We are proud of our work in providing a low carbon fuel option, and we are proud to call California our home. Please, withdraw this harmful legislation.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Renewable Fuels Association’s website