U.S. representatives urge EPA to deny waiver request

By Kris Bevill | May 09, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 22, 2008 at 4:39 p.m. CST

U.S. Reps. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, D-S.D., and John Shimkus, R-Ill., have begun a movement to encourage the U.S. EPA to deny a renewable fuels standard (RFS) waiver requested by the state of Texas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has requested that the EPA grant a 50 percent reduction in renewable fuels mandates for Texas. The RFS was established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and increased in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. A provision in the standard allows the EPA to grant full or partial waivers if implementation of the RFS would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region or country, or if it is determined that there is an inadequate supply of domestic renewable fuel.

Members of the U.S. Senate have already expressed their opinions both for and against the waiver request through letters submitted to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. Herseth-Sandlin and Shimkus are now circulating their own letter to members of the House, asking them to sign it by June 3.

Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, has issued a call to action for ethanol supporters asking them to contact their representatives and urging them to sign the letter. Contact information for members of the House can be found online at http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml.

Here is the text of the letter:

June __, 2008

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460-2403

Dear Administrator Johnson,

We are writing to express our strong opposition to any requests to waive or halt the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). We believe the RFS is a critical part of domestic energy policy, and strongly dispute the notion that the federal biofuels standard included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is causing adverse economic impacts or is responsible for rising food costs around the globe.

A careful look at the facts reveals that American agricultural producers can and will meet our domestic and international commitments for food and feed and still make a significant and growing contribution to lessening our dependence on imported oil with homegrown, American-made renewable fuels.

The harsh criticism biofuels have received recently in connection with the rise in food prices is unwarranted. If we look at the facts, several other factors are central to higher food prices: record oil prices, soaring global demand for commodities from oil to grains, poor weather conditions, a weak U.S. dollar, and restrictive agricultural policies around the world. In fact, a recent study by Texas A&M University noted, "The underlying force driving changes in the agriculture industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs, evidenced by $100 per barrel oil."

With the price of oil hovering at record levels above $125 per barrel, and Goldman Sachs forecasting a price of $141 per barrel later this year, biofuels are helping to give consumers some relief. Using biofuels in the U.S. transportation fuel market helps lower gasoline prices by expanding gasoline supplies and reducing the need for importing expensive, high-octane, petroleum-based gasoline components or more crude oil from unstable parts of the world. A Merrill Lynch analyst recently estimated that oil prices would be 15 percent higher without the expansion of biofuel production.

As you know, two governors have sought a waiver of the RFS. Yet, the fifty percent waiver sought by Texas would mean removing 4.5 billion gallons of ethanol from the market and increasing gasoline prices up to one year by up to 31 percent, according to one recent analysis. With Americans already suffering record gas prices at the pump, pushing the price up further makes no sense at all in the short-term.

Just as importantly, in the long-term, the RFS is absolutely fundamental to spurring the development of advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and biomass-based biodiesel. Continued support of today's U.S. biofuels industry and continued commitment to the new RFS will truly be a catalyst for new technologies, new breakthroughs, and will make a vitally important contribution to increasing energy independence for our nation.

By growing demand for domestically produced renewable fuels, including next generation advanced biofuels, we can continue the vital work necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and leave a more stable and sustainable future for future generations of Americans. Biofuels are already helping to reduce the carbon footprint. These environmental benefits will only increase as new technologies, new feedstocks and new markets for renewable fuels are fostered.

Critics of biofuels have also failed to recognize the advances that the agricultural and biofuels producers have made to meet existing demand in the most efficient and environmentally sound manner. Technological advances have also enabled American farmers to boost agricultural productivity to meet demands, including rising global demands.

We believe the new RFS enacted in 2007 strengthens our energy security and will further diversify our nation's fuel supply in an era of global volatility and demand for energy. The RFS is doing exactly what it was designed to do. It is providing essential support for efforts to supply the United States with a clean-burning, renewable fuel that is cutting oil imports and keeping gasoline and oil prices lower than they otherwise would be.

Reducing or waiving the RFS at this point would only play into the hands of OPEC, which is intent on keeping supplies tight and prices high, to the detriment of importing nations, their economies, and our constituents. Accordingly, we urge you continue the Administration's support for the RFS and deny any waiver requests.