Keep partisan politics out of biofuel mandates, API tells White House

A revision was made to this story on Sept. 15. 

The White House should stay away from partisan politics as its Office of Management and Budget reviews the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed 2014 biofuel quotas under the Renewable Fuels Standard, an American Petroleum Institute official said.

The quotas are nearly a year late already, and API is concerned about reports that the administration may raise requirements on the specious argument that E-85, a motor fuel that is 85% ethanol, could be widely used, Downstream Director Bob Greco said.

Nationally, E-85 represents only 0.15% of total motor fuel demand, while demand for E-zero, or ethanol-free gasoline, has grown to 5%, because consumers are buying it to run their boats and gardening equipment, he told reporters during a Sept. 11 teleconference.

“E-85 already is available,” Greco said. “It can be used in up to 6% of the vehicles on the road, but consumers don’t want it—even in Iowa. They notice that with E-85, they have to refill their car’s fuel tanks four times for every three they refill it with gasoline.”

US Rep. Bruce L. Braley (D-Iowa) is running against Republican Joni Ernst to succeed Democrat Thomas R. Harkin, who is retiring as one of the state’s two US senators. In an Aug. 25 letter, Braley urged OMB Director Shaun Donovan “to reject any rule that cuts biofuels, recognizing this would be detrimental to our nation’s energy supply and consumer choice at the pump.”

‘Playing politics’

“Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing politics with the RFS rule instead of doing what’s best for consumers,” Greco said during the teleconference. “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race—and the White House fear of losing control of the Senate—plays into this decision.”

API plans to launch a radio, television, and print advertising campaign urging the White House to leave politics aside as EPA prepares to finalize the RFS’s 2014 biofuel quotas, he indicated.

Greco said API also is concerned by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s recent statements that the agency will raise ethanol requirements based on the latest gasoline demand figures for 2014.

“Refiners can’t plan for compliance with regulatory requirements that change later in the year,” he explained. “And when companies must comply retroactively like they will again this year, it borders on the impossible.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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