Dinneen tells ethanol industry to brace for brutal RFS fight

By Kris Bevill | June 05, 2012

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen covered a wide range of topics during his keynote address to attendees of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo on June 5 in Minneapolis, but as indicated by the button prominently displayed on his lapel which declared “Don’t Mess with the RFS,” the renewable fuel standard and the need for ethanol producers to combat Big Oil’s attempts to unravel the policy were at the core of his message.

“We will not be misled, nor will we allow the American people to be misled by their misinformation,” he said. “We are going to come together, we are going to defend the RFS [renewable fuel standard], we are going to ensure that this industry continues to grow and evolve because of the innovation that you will show at the plant and because of the passion that we will bring to Washington, D.C., to remind them of the importance of this industry, the importance of the RFS and the importance of the continued evolution of this industry.

Expanding the domestic market for ethanol is crucial to meeting the escalating biofuels volumes mandated under the RFS. The U.S. EPA’s approval for E15 to be used in vehicles manufactured in 2001 and later could provide some market expansion opportunities, but the regulatory steps required to introduce the fuel to the market have notably delayed that process. Dinneen told attendees he expects the final regulatory issues to be resolved within days, but warned ethanol producers that the oil industry will “do everything possible” to shut E15 out of the fuel supply. Anticipating misinformation campaigns similar to those historically lobbied against ethanol’s impact on vehicle operations, he said,“It’s going to be up to all of us to explain to people how E15 can’t hurt your radiator and how one fill up can’t hurt your fuel pump. Brace yourselves. It will be brutal. We are going to have to be vigilant for when this occurs.”

The oil industry has more political strength than ever before, according to Dinneen, and therefore the ethanol industry must also be proactive in reminding lawmakers of the benefits ethanol provides in lowering consumer gas prices and reducing reliance on foreign oil. He drew applause from the audience when he called for a “war to wheels” analysis of oil production to be conducted as a comparison with the seed-to-wheels analysis of ethanol suggested by some members of Congress, a comparison which he said would put the debate over the goals of the RFS back into perspective.

The oil industry is threatened by cellulosic ethanol’s looming commercialization, Dinneen said, and believes it must thwart biofuels expansion plans before cellulosic biofuels become readily available. According to Dinneen, cellulosic ethanol is likely to be commercialized in the U.S. within two years. “The oil industry then has a two-year window with which to try to stop this program, before we can demonstrate the success of the RFS.”