Senate bill bans Russian oil, increases access to US biofuels

By Erin Voegele | March 09, 2022

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on March 9 introduced the Home Front Energy Independence Act, a bill that aims to put into a law a ban on Russian oil and includes provisions to increase the use of ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels.

The Home Front Energy Independence Act combines elements of several of the senators’ previous bills aimed at supporting and incentivizing the use of biofuel, including the Biofuel Infrastructure and Agricultural Product Market Expansion Act of 2021the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Actthe Low Carbon Biofuel Credit Act, and the Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension Act of 2021. It would also put into law full restrictions on U.S. purchases of Russian oil until the president determines Russia recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Provisions included in the legislation include a tax credit for the sale or blending of E15, language extending the 1 psi Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15, and changes to E15 labeling requirements. The bill would also extend tax incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel through the end of 2025 and provide grants to expand infrastructure for higher biofuel blends.

“As gas prices hit record highs for Americans across the country, it’s never been clearer that energy security is national security,” Ernst said. “Banning Russian oil was long overdue, but it’s far past time for President Biden to make good on the promises he made on the campaign trail to Iowa farmers and producers to support our state’s biofuel that is American-made, ready, and available to meet our nation’s needs right away.”

“This legislation will help hold Putin accountable for Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine while investing in affordable, readily-available biofuels produced in the U.S. I have long pushed for pro-biofuel policies because they are good for drivers, farmers, and the environment. It’s time for Congress to take action by passing this bill immediately,” Klobuchar said.

To date, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., have signed on to cosponsor the bill. Following its March 9 introduction, the legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Representatives of the biofuels industry are speaking out in support of the Home Front Energy Independence Act.

Growth Energy applauded the Senators for their action.  “Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and we stand in solidarity as they defend their independence and their democracy,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen significant market uncertainty given the turmoil in the region, impacting commodities across the board - oil spiking to well over $100 a barrel and gas prices rising to $4 or more a gallon in some areas.   

“The uncertainty of the situation in Ukraine underscores the need for more homegrown biofuels to displace the oil we import from Russia, reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and improving our energy security. This bill by Senators Ernst, Grassley, and Klobuchar if enacted would provide relief for the rising gas prices families are paying at the pump. We urge the passage of this legislation to invest in a more energy independent nation through increasing the use of and access to higher biofuel blends today and the years ahead.” 

The American Coalition for Ethanol is commending the senators for taking action. “The only hurdles standing between saving consumers considerable money at the pump and replacing foreign oil with homegrown E15 are political or artificial in nature, and the Biden administration and Congress have the ability to help us overcome those hurdles,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “We support this bipartisan legislation as a timely and potent prescription to the simultaneous pocketbook, energy security, and climate challenges facing our nation.

“As gas prices set new record highs, ethanol is trading at a dollar per gallon discount to gasoline in the marketplace,” Jennings added. “We thank these senators for this important legislation and renew our call on the Biden administration to pursue every option at their disposal to ensure uninterrupted market access for E15. Ensuring year-round access to E15 for all parts of the country is the quickest way to address pain at the pump and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. transportation fleet.”

A full copy of the bill can be downloaded from Ernst’s website