For years, government support of America's most readily available renewable fuel has encountered strident opposition from groups as diverse as the American Petroleum Institute, the Automobile Manufacturers Association and even the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona: "It's time to say enough is enough. This industry has been collecting corporate welfare for far too long. For those of us who have been fighting against these handouts over the last two decades, it's been far too long since we've had a full debate on this issue."
Increasingly, the battle over ethanol is being waged on Capitol Hill where lawmakers now are tasked with cutting federal spending by $1.5 trillion by the end of the year. And as debate moves forward on the future of the 45-cent tax credit paid to refiners blending ethanol, renewable fuels advocates have become increasingly estranged from members of the petroleum industry.
Even though EPA has already approved E15, members of Congress from Texas and Oklahoma recently introduced amendments to an appropriations bill that essentially would ban E15.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association officials called the legislation "a blatant attack on consumer freedom and energy security that will not go unchallenged and will not become law.”
Monte Shaw - Executive Director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association: “They can impede E15, but they cannot stop it. Because it is a cheaper domestic renewable product and there are people who are gonna’ want that. Um... So I think that sales will ultimately drive people to find a way to make this happen even though “Big Oil” is using every legal, legislative and regulatory trick in the book to try to slow it down."
The proposed ban, attached to appropriations bills by Representatives John Sullivan of Oklahoma and Michael Burgess of Texas, would limit the amount of ethanol that can be blended in standard automobile engines to 10 percent.
EPA currently is finalizing regulations to implement E15, but Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, whose office also certifies fuel pumps in the nation's top ethanol producing state, says it's not as simple as merely giving the nod to E15.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey: “There’s a lot of things that have to happen for it to actually be sold. ...There has to be some additional things happen from EPA, ...certainly the retailers have to know what signage they have to have to make sure the consumers know it’s E15. There’s even a vapor pressure variable out there that’s available for E10 that’s not available for E15 and that could impact what fuel actually gets blended with ethanol. So several different pieces that have to happen, and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. "
This week, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association released a joint statement in which Northey, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and both Iowa Senators criticized the legislation.
Branstad said the "legislation makes no sense," Senator Charles Grassley also was dumbfounded saying "he couldn't understand why anybody would be against clean burning domestic fuel." And Senator Tom Harkin said the amendments were done “by those that are at the beck and call of the big oil companies.”
Monte Shaw, Executive Director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association: "Look, our industry has said we’ll do our part, the tax credit has served its purpose right wrong or otherwise, were willing to see that… Well I don’t know if willing is the right word, but we’re resigned to seeing that go away at the end of the year. ...That’s about a $6 billion impact. Oil’s impact in those tax credits is anywhere between $10 billion and $50 billion a year depending on which study you look at. Shouldn’t those be discussed? You know, I get asked all the time, ‘when is ethanol finally gonna’ stand on its own two feet?’ And my response to that, quite seriously is, ‘well how ‘bout the day after Big Oil does?’”