API mounts another attack on RFS, ethanol industry fights back

By Holly Jessen | November 27, 2012

Less than two weeks after the U.S. EPA denied the request to waive the renewable fuel standard (RFS), the American Petroleum Institute is calling on Congress to repeal it.

During a press call Nov. 27, Bob Greco, API downstream director, said the organization’s member companies support renewable fuels by investing in biofuels and blending nearly every gallon of gasoline with biofuels, in order to boost octane ratings and meet environmental requirements. Still, API believes that the RFS is unworkable and should be repealed. “Despite repeated and ongoing efforts to address the program’s shortcomings—through regulatory petitions, legal actions and suggested solutions to implementation concerns—little has been done to make the program workable, and sometimes actions have been taken that make matters worse,” he said. “There is a fundamental flaw in the enabling statute so the only way to fix it is to scrap the law and start over if Congress believes such a program is necessary.”

Supporting organizations of the ethanol industry were quick to respond in opposition to API’s efforts to repeal the RFS. “Since the inception of the RFS, API has used every regulatory and legal ploy available to delay and block implementation of the law,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “Since these efforts appear to have failed, they are now mounting a public relations effort to convince lawmakers to repeal the RFS. Congress should see right through this effort.”

Indeed, API has filed multiple lawsuits over the RFS, the most recent on Nov. 26, against the EPA for mandating the use of 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2013. The organization has also sued the EPA over the cellulosic biofuel mandate, multiple times. In November 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit challenging the RFS, which had been filed by API and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. 

Growth Energy said API was presenting the “same old disproven misinformation to discredit” the RFS and compared it to the fox guarding the chicken coop. “Special interests will stop at nothing to discredit the success of renewable fuels created right here at home to ensure their lock on the fuels market goes unchecked,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “They continue to protect the status quo, ensuring our addiction to foreign oil and preventing consumers a choice at the pump.”

Fuels America, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting the RFS, called API’s announcement no news at all. “The RFS is making progress toward changing our dependence on one fuel source and giving consumers real choices—choices that are already impacting their pocketbooks,” the group said in a prepared statement. “Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the average family saved $29 on their gas bill because of ethanol. A dependence on volatile oil markets and a lack of fuel diversity hurts consumers every day—both at the pump and in the grocery aisles.”

The RFS provides for fair competition for both advanced renewable fuel and corn ethanol, both integral components of the biofuels industry. The industry supports American jobs, encourages billions in investment dollars and reduces dependence on foreign oil, Fuels America said.

It’s really no surprise that API opposes the RFS, the Renewable Fuels Association said. “API wants to repeal a highly successful program that has reduced gasoline imports and stimulated investment in renewable energy resources,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of RFA. “API doesn’t like the RFS because it has taken 10 percent of their barrel and reduced consumer costs.  Americans like and support the RFS for exactly those reasons.”