Ethanol advocates criticize House committee hearing on RFS

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 03, 2015

Another House hearing critical of the renewable fuels standard was held Tuesday, the day after reports that the Office of Management and Budget received the final rule for review from the U.S. EPA on the renewable volume obligations under the renewable fuels standard (RFS).

Two subcommittees of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, oversight and environment, convened the Nov. 3 hearing, “Renewable Fuel Standard: A Ten Year Review of Costs and Benefits.”  Witnesses at the hearing included Terry Dinan, senior advisor, Congressional Budget Office, Ed Anderson, CEO, WEN-GAP LLC, John DeCicco, research professor, University of Michigan Energy Institute, Charles Drevna, senior fellow, Institute for Energy Research, and Brooke Coleman, executive director, Advanced Biofuels Business Council.

Anderson, a Wendy’s franchisee speaking on behalf of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, said the RFS is at the root of food cost increases. “More and more of us in the food business understand the RFS is a big mistake, and the average consumer is starting to catch on, too.” The RFS is affecting the food supply chain and chain restaurant industry in significant ways, the chain restaurant’s news release after the hearing said. “Commodity markets are more volatile than ever before and food costs have hit all-time highs for small business restaurant owners like Anderson.” The council cited a 2012 study on the “RFS Off the Menu” coalition website that found the RFS is costing the chain restaurant industry $3.2 billion per year.

“Today’s hearing reflected the fact that Big Oil’s narrative opposing the RFS no longer has any currency,” said Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO, in his statement following the hearing. “The argument from Wendy’s, for example, alleging the RFS drove food prices higher was demonstrably refuted by the simple fact that corn prices are lower today than when the original RFS was passed in 2005. Testimony by the Congressional Budget Office further confirmed that expanding the RFS to statutory levels would not increase food prices further. Today’s hearing shows that, once and for all, the food versus fuel canard should permanently be put to rest.

“Further, the controversial notion espoused by Dr. DeCicco that the carbon emissions from biofuels are no better than, and could be worse than, gasoline was similarly refuted when upon questioning he could not come up with a logical explanation as to why recycling carbon through plant growth is not inherently and infinitely better than releasing carbon from stored petroleum after thousands of years. When confronted with the fact that his theory is not supported by EPA, DOE, USDA, CARB or any other state or federal regulatory agency, Dr. DeCicco had nothing substantive to offer.”

Saying the committee has a history of misrepresenting biofuels, Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy, commented in a statement after the hearing, “Minus a few open-minded individuals who examined this issue based on facts, not pre-determined bias, this hearing did nothing to reflect the overwhelming contributions of the RFS. The RFS has been a resounding success since its passage a decade ago. It is important that we recognize how much this policy has done to help improve the lives of all Americans. This bipartisan law was passed in Congress in 2005 and strengthened in 2007 with several policy goals: improved energy security, job creation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Ten years later, any objective analysis will prove this policy has done exactly what it was designed to do.”

Buis said the environmental benefits of ethanol are clear. “According to Argonne National Laboratory, – an objective national laboratory – ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, even when the highly controversial and disputed theory on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) is factored into the modeling. Furthermore, Argonne has found that without ILUC included, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to gasoline.” Buis also pointed out that since the enactment of the RFS, biofuels have helped reduced our dependence on foreign oil by more than half — from 60 percent to 27 percent. We have created nearly 400,000 jobs

“It is unfortunate that the Science Committee missed an opportunity to provide an unbiased examination of the RFS.  Instead, the Committee – which has no jurisdiction over this policy – continued to present a misguided agenda to smear biofuels, hosting several witnesses that fabricated information on the impact biofuels have on food prices, the environment and the American economy. This treatment of homegrown American fuels is insulting to the hardworking Americans across our country who are helping fuel our energy independence.”

In his statement, Dinneen thanked Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, (D-OR), Don Beyer, (D-VA), and Darin LaHood, (R-IL), for “their staunch support of the RFS in the face of repeated attacks by the oil patch.”