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By Ari Natter
May 11 — Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is in the running to become the panel's next chairman, called for changes to the renewable fuel standard and welcomed legislation that would cap ethanol's share of the fuel supply.
“With EPA set to take over the RFS program entirely in 2022, which should concern everyone, now is the time for us as policy makers to examine how the program can be improved to better reflect an evolving energy landscape,” said Shimkus, who currently chairs the panel's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. “Without reform, neither producers nor blenders will have the certainty they need in the years ahead.”
Shimkus in a May 11 statement said he welcomed legislation (H.R. 5180) introduced May 10 by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) that would cap the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation fuel supply at 9.7 percent of projected gasoline demand as determined by the Energy Information Administration. “It continues the dialogue to help move the debate forward,” Shimkus said.
Jordan Haverly, a Shimkus spokesman, told Bloomberg BNA that Shimkus, who represents both ethanol producers and refiners, has yet to back any particular legislation or specific policy change.
The renewable fuel standard calls for increasing amounts of biofuels to be blended into the fuel supply. The limits in 2016 for the first time would require ethanol to be blended in amounts higher than 10 percent. The standard is opposed by refiners such as Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. and supported by Archer Daniels Midland Co., Abengoa Bioenergy and other biofuels producers.
Shimkus was among the lawmakers charged with leading an effort to make changes to the renewable fuel standard in 2013 and 2014, but the effort failed after lawmakers failed to find a middle ground (05 ECR, 1/8/14).
Analysts such as Timothy T. Cheung of ClearView Energy Partners say meaningful reform of the biofuels mandate is unlikely to occur in the current Congress as well. But Shimkus' backing of the effort is significant in that it could provide momentum to push legislation ahead in the next Congress, especially if he were to succeed the term-limited Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Flores' bill, which was co-authored by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.), also would require the EPA to meet its statutory deadlines in setting its annual RFS volume requirements. The agency missed its annual RFS deadlines for the past three years.
“Despite its initial promise, the RFS has been a well-intended flop that’s inflicting harm on consumers, the economy and the environment,” Welch said in a statement.
The four-page bill's 9.7 percent limit on ethanol in fuel is significant in that it keeps the amount of biofuels blended into the motor fuel supply below the so-called 10 percent “blend wall”—the maximum amount of ethanol in gasoline approved for use in all vehicles on the road.
The Renewable Fuels Association, a Washington-based trade group that represents biofuels producers, said if enacted, the bill would “gut the RFS and send America’s energy and climate change policy back decades.”
“Passage of this bill would represent a complete capitulation to the oil industry that steadfastly refuses to provide consumers higher-octane, lower-cost alternative fuels at the pump,” Bob Dinneen, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement.
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