API takes its E15 dispute to the Supreme Court

By Erin Voegele | February 21, 2013

The American Petroleum Institute, Grocery Manufactures Association, and consortium of other organizations have filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision to reject its challenge U.S. EPA’s decision to grant partial waiver for the use of E15.

In a statement, Bob Greco, group director for downstream and industry operations, said that the EPA did not act within its statutory authority and did not follow proper procedures, alleging that the agency did not wait until ongoing E15 testing was complete before approving partial waiver for the fuel blend.

“We’ve filed this petition because the D.C. Circuit incorrectly concluded that none of the 17 petitioners had standing to challenge the E15 partial waivers—not the engine manufacturers whose products will run on this new fuel blend, not the petroleum industry who must undertake massive infrastructure changes to accommodate the blend and meet the renewable fuel mandate, and not the food producers who now face significantly greater competition in the commodities market for corn, the conventional feedstock for ethanol,” Greco said.

Greco also reiterated that the API believes there are many underlying problems with the renewable fuel standard (RFS), and will continue to lobby for its repeal.

Representatives of the ethanol industry have spoken out, challenging the API’s claims. “Good luck with that,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, in response to the announcement. “We now know why gas prices keep going up and up—to fund unnecessary Big Oil lawsuits to protect their monopoly on the fuel market. I wonder if food prices will spike as well to cover the cost of this Supreme Court challenge?”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, noted that Big Oil is as predictable as the sunset, endlessly working to protect its bottom line and monopoly of the liquid fuels market. “There is nothing unexpected in this announcement; in fact it is not even news,” he said. “We know that the oil companies are going to do everything within their power to restrict access of a price competitive product. They will stop at nothing to keep consumers from having a choice at the pump of a better performing, homegrown and less expensive, renewable fuel.”

Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, also criticize the actions taken by API and GMA. “Big Oily Foods’ cozy and self-serving relationship to do whatever it takes to stop consumers from access to safe and affordable E15 fuel is dripping with highly-saturated desperation,” he said.  “First these groups convince a couple members of Congress to introduce legislation which would overturn EPA’s science-based decision to approve E15 for 2001 and newer model year cars.  Now, after their lawsuits against EPA have been rejected by lower courts, they are appealing to the Supreme Court to help protect their profitable status-quo.”

According to Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Big Oil has been the most coddled, subsidized and protected industry in America, noting that it’s time for a change. “Big Oil has made clear that nothing will stand in the way of its quest to protect the federal petroleum mandate and use government regulations to shield itself from market competition,” He said. “Today, API will double down on its failed legal attempts to restrict competition.  Just last week Big Oil senators introduced legislation to actually ban E15 from the marketplace. Why is Big Oil so scared of competition?”

The Fuels American coalition has also weighed in. “While drivers endure record high gas prices and a losing streak at the pump, oil companies pass go, collect millions and then proceed to ask for a get out of jail free card,” said the group in a statement. “Oil alternatives like renewable fuel are the only way to end the oil industry’s monopoly on our fuel supply and lower prices at the pump. To ensure that Americans have choice at the pump, we must protect policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard and the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of E15, a fuel that was tested for millions of miles before approval and is now in use, successfully, today.”