Legislation was proposed Wednesday by four U.S. Congressmen that would ease what they believe are the impacts of the ethanol mandate "and protect consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, retailers and the U.S. economy."
The Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act, introduced by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), would eliminate the biofuels mandate, beginning in 2014, and rescind the requirements of blending up to 15 percent ethanol into the fuel supply. The proposal would prohibit corn-based ethanol from being used to meet the RFS, and reduce the total size of the RFS by 42 percent over the next nine years.
A coalition of 13 food groups expressed support for the proposed legislation which they believe will protect food makers and consumers from unnecessary food price increases.
Grocery Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pamela G. Bailey, said, "Americans need responsible energy policy solutions that do not pit our nation's energy needs against food security for millions of families. GMA applauds Reps. Goodlatte, Costa, Welch and Womack for taking an important step towards reforming the ill-conceived food-for-fuels policies that are driving up the cost of food for consumers when they can least afford it."
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) also issued a statement in support of the legislation.
"Cattlemen and women are self-reliant, but in order to maintain that we cannot be asked to compete with federal mandates like the Renewable Fuels Standard for the limited supply of feed grains," said NCBA Policy vice-chair Craig Uden, an Elwood, Neb., cattle feeder. "In light of the worst drought to hit our country in over 50 years and the ever increasing renewable mandates, we are seeing many of our members not only failing to profit, but taking a loss."
NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., said, "It is clear, when EPA is unable to provide even a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 70 years to assure adequate feed and food supplies, that something is broken and needs to be fixed. We applaud Congress, and especially Congressmen Goodlatte, Costa, Womack and Welch, for beginning this long overdue conversation on the RFS and for offering reasonable solutions to address problems associated with that mandate. We need to reform the RFS."
The Renewable Fuels Association, however, claims the proposed legislation represents "circular logic."
"You can't say ‘we support biofuels" and then pull the rug out from underneath companies that relied upon government policy and are now building biorefineries that create hundres of construction jobs at each location or are hitting milestones in new production," RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen said.
Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, says the proposed legislation "gets points for being creative. Disguised as a reform effort supportive of advanced biofuels, the RFS Reform Act actually guts the RFS by eliminating key provisions that require oil companies to actually change their behavior and buy renewable fuels. It is not a coincidence that the American Petroleum Institute (API) has been asking for these modifications to the RFS for years. But the RFS Reform Act is even more disingenuous than that. While stating that he merely wants ethanol to compete in a free market, in the same breath Congressman Goodlatte proposes to ban ethanol from 90 percent of the market. If there ever was a definition of free market fit for the oil industry, this is it.
"It is doubtful that the sponsors of this legislation truly believe that the best way to promote second generation biofuel is to kill first generation biofuel and provide Congressional protections for the oil industry's monopoly over the fuel blend in the process," Coleman says. "This is just a smokescreen for going after the one alternative fuel and the one policy that has fundamentally disrupted oil industry control of the marketplace while saving consumers money at the pump."