Bill aims to open RFS to natural gas-based ethanol

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2013

Reps. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and Jim Costa, D-Calif., have introduced legislation that would allow ethanol produced from domestic natural gas to meet the volume requirements of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). The bill, titled “The Domestic Alternative Fuels Act,” or H.R. 1959, was introduced on May 14 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

A copy of the bill provided to Biomass Magazine Ethanol Producer Magazine by Olson’s office specifies that the measure would make natural gas-based ethanol eligible for meeting the renewable fuel portion of the RFS, which is currently met primarily by corn ethanol. The legislation would not allow natural-gas ethanol to meet the volume requirements for the RFS’s advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel or cellulosic pools.

In a press release announcing the bill, Olson said that the RFS has increased food and feedstock prices, a claim that has been repeatedly debunked by experts. He also noted that his primary goal is to repeal the RFS.

"The RFS' singular focus on corn ethanol translates into higher food costs for working families, as well as higher feed costs for livestock producers,” Olson said in the statement. “To be clear, my primary goal will always be the full repeal of the market distorting RFS. However, until then, we can take care of immediate problems by providing greater participation and competition under the program. Expanding the sources for ethanol will only benefit all Americans. I'm pleased this measure enjoys bipartisan and widespread support."

Costa echoed Olson’s claims about feed prices. “We cannot keep gambling our nation’s energy and food security on a broken policy,” he said. “The renewable fuel standard has injected uncertainty into our economy, and it’s time to bring this policy back into balance. Our bill will help stabilize feed prices and create some sanity in this policy through diversifying sources for ethanol production. American families and farmers cannot continue to pay for Washington’s unwillingness to reform the RFS.”

Groups that have signed on to support the bill include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

A total of 15 members of Congress have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, including Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Eric “Rick” Crawford, R-Ariz.; Ralph Hall, R-Texas; Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Gene Green, D-Texas; Blake Fahrenthold, R-Texas; Tim Griffin, R-Ariz.; Bill Flores, R-Texas; Joe Barton, R-Texas; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Filemon Vela, D-Texas; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas; and Thomas Marino, R-Pa.