Ethanol industry responds to witness list for E15 hearing

By Erin Voegele | February 25, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment is scheduled to hold a hearing on mid-level ethanol blends on Feb. 26. The hearing will feature three witnesses: Robert Darbelnet, president and CEO of the American Automobile Association; Wayne Allard, vice president of government relations at the American Motorcyclist Association; and Mike Leister, a member of the Coordinating Research Council board of directors.

Growth Energy has spoken out prior to the hearing, noting that the committee has held biased hearings in the past, refusing to invite ethanol stakeholders. The scheduled hearing will be no different, said the organization in a statement, as it includes only ethanol critics.

“It seems to me that if the Science Committee continues to hold these one-sided, sham hearings, they out to change their name to the Science Fiction Committee—because that is exactly how their treatment of ethanol and biofuels have been. By only inviting vocal critics to discuss mid-level ethanol blends and refusing to invite a single producer or stakeholder in the ethanol industry to testify exemplifies a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “If this is not a classic example of political theatre, I don’t know what is.”

The Renewable Fuels Association has also criticized the hearing, and is taking action by submitting a letter to the committee. The letter protests the one-sided nature of the witness list and provides information for the hearing record on the extensive testing that was completed prior to the approval of E15.

“It both saddens and angers me that in this day and age such a lopsided, stacked hearing could actually happen,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “It is shameful to see how tight of a grip oil companies have on Congress.  Big Oil is running scared because their profit-gouging monopoly is threatened by Americans’ desire for fuel choice and savings.  Ethanol and E15 are gaining momentum.  Science and consumer demand are on our side.  The facts and our track record will speak louder than any scare tactic.”

In the letter, Dinneen stresses that the debate about E15 should be about consumer choice, as there is no requirement for retailers to offer the fuel, and no mandate for consumers to buy it. “However, for those marketers that want to offer their customers a higher octane alternative to petroleum, E15 is a great option,” said Dinneen in the letter, noting that ethanol also continues to provide consumers with savings at the pump as gas prices increase.

The letter states that the approximately 12 stations nationwide offering E15 seem to be attracting a wildly disproportionate share of attention, particularly when compared to other fuel quality issues, such as the sale of sub-octane gas in many mountain states. Sub-octane fuel is not covered under any car manufacturer’s warranty. “It is well understood that less than 87 octane gasoline will cause engine damage and undermine emissions control systems, yet refiners continue to supply cheaper gasolines with 85 octane,” said Dinneen in the letter. “Where is the outrage about that? When will there be a committee hearing about inferior gasoline threatening our air and engines? The myopic focus of this committee on E15, to the exclusion of other more significant gasoline quality issues, fuels cynicism and leads to the inescapable conclusion that this is about market share, not safety.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the RFA website