The Week Ahead: Congress to Focus on Renewable Fuel Standard, Coal, Fracking


Both Houses of Congress are expected to turn their attention in the week ahead to amending or repealing the renewable fuel standard.

While the Senate has not set a hearing date as of July 19, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold hearings July 23-24 on "An Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard: Stakeholder’s Perspectives."

Pressure to reform the renewable fuel standard has been mounting with opponents—as covered in a July 15 Energy and Climate Reportarticle—claiming it is driving up food and fuel costs by requiring increasing amounts of ethanol to be added to the pool of gasoline sold in the contiguous 48 states.

In the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill in June—the Renewable Fuel Standard Repeal Act (S. 1195)—that would repeal the renewable fuel standard in its entirety.

In the House, the RFS Reform Act of 2013 would eliminate the corn ethanol blending requirement and cap the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline at 10 percent.

The July 23-24 House subcommittee hearings will cover a series of white papers called for by committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) to help in determining if the standard needs to be revised.

The committee's first paper considered issues surrounding the ethanol “blend wall” as well as the impact of higher ethanol blends on vehicles. The second paper looked at the impacts of ethanol production on the agriculture sector. The third white paper asked about any unintended environmental impacts of the renewable fuel standard as well as its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The fourth paper asks interested parties to discuss how the standard relates to larger energy policy and whether the economic assumptions underlying the renewable fuel standard have changed in recent years. A fifth and final paper covers implementation issues.

Senate to Hold Energy Hearing

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bill—The Fixing America's Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act of 2013 (S. 1273)—to expand oil and gas revenue sharing to all coastal states and use part of the proceeds to fund clean energy development.

As detailed in a March 20 article, the bill would authorize coastal states to receive up to 37.5 percent of revenues for offshore energy development. In addition, the legislation would broaden the types of energy eligible for revenue sharing to include alternative and renewable energy sources and expand revenue sharing from energy production on federal lands within a state's boundaries to include renewable and alternative energy production.

House Subcommittees to Address Coal, Fracking

On July 25, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on "The Future of Coal: Utilizing America's Abundant Energy Resources."

Witnesses include Chris Smith, acting assistant secretary for the Energy Department's Fossil Fuel Program; Ben Yamagata, executive director for the Coal Utilization Council; Don Collins, chief executive officer for the Western Research Institute; and Judi Greenwald, vice president for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

On July 24, the subcommittee, along with the Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a joint hearing on "Lessons Learned: EPA's Investigations of Hydraulic Fracturing."

Witnesses include Fred Hauchman, director for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Science Policy within the Office of Research and Development; David Dzombak, chair of EPA's Science Advisory Board's Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel; John Rogers, associate director of the Utah Department of Natural Resource's Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining; and Brian Rahm, post-doctoral associate at Cornell University's New York Water Resources Institute.

House Subcommittee Oversight Hearing Scheduled

The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing July 24 on "The Department of Energy: What is Necessary to Improve Project Management and Mission Performance?"

International Energy Outlook to Be Released

On July 25, The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its International Energy Outlook 2013 at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski will present the report's key findings, which will cover projections of world energy demand by region and primary energy source through 2040, electricity generation by energy source, and energy related carbon dioxide emissions. 

EPA, DOE Webinars

EPA will hold a webinar July 24 on "Aligning Green Power Partners with New Renewable Energy Projects." The webinar will cover new, not-yet-built renewable energy projects that may align with objectives of stakeholders in the areas of energy, environment, and finance.

Also on July 24, DOE's SunShot Initiative, in coordination with the Solar Outreach Partnership, will hold a webinar on "Successes from the Rooftop Solar Challenge." The webinar will highlight several initiatives to implement solar-friendly zoning and building codes to better accommodate solar planning and development.

CARB to Host Lecture

The California Air Resources Board will hold a lecture July 23 on "Black Carbon Reductions in California and Its Implications for Regional and Global Climate Change Mitigation."

Featured speakers include Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Lynn Russell, both professors for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Other Energy Events

Former DOE Secretary Bill Richardson will give a presentation to the North American Energy Partnership July 24 in Washington, D.C.

Also on July 24, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina will hold an event in Washington, D.C., on "How On-bill Financing Unlocks Energy Efficiency." On-bill financing refers to programs that offer loans to energy customers who make energy efficiency improvements that are repaid through utility bills.