12.5.2016 | printed in the Fall 2016 issue of VITAL magazine
It’s no secret. Decisions made in Washington, D.C. have an incredible impact on the ethanol industry. For the past several years, POET has actively engaged lawmakers and administration officials urging their support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Since 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released proposed Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) numbers which determine the number of gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the fuel supply. Under the law, EPA should maintain the levels that were initially written and signed by President Bush. Yet every year their proposals fall short of what Congress intended. It is frustrating that each year we’ve had to battle for our piece of the pie.
When Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which created the current RFS, part of that legislation explicitly set a table of yearly volume requirements out to 2022. Lately, I’ve started hearing questions about what will happen to the RFS post-2022. Does it expire? Will any biofuels be blended into the fuel supply? Will Congress pass a new law? Will ethanol and corn producers be protected? While we may not have the answers to every question, let’s discuss what we do know.
The explicit volumes called for under the RFS for different kinds of biofuels (ethanol, cellulosic, biodiesel and other advanced biofuels) will indeed end in 2022. However, even after that year, the RFS continues to put the responsibility on the EPA to set yearly volumes. Put simply, even after 2022, the RFS protects our industry from Big Oil halting its blending and going backward toward the monopoly we are all a part of dismantling.
Despite this, some think we should reopen the RFS and take away the authority from EPA. At first glance, it sounds good. Working with the EPA is complex and requires a lot of effort from Growth Energy, POET and all of us and our families to provide comments and actively engage in the regulatory process. However, we believe the flip side of opening up the RFS and trying to modify it presents a pretty bleak scenario for all of us. The ethanol industry would open itself to attacks and reform we may not like. Make no mistake, our opponents have an army in Washington. The oil industry is well-funded and relentless. They salivate at the thought of any opportunity to halt and reverse our industry’s progress. Big Oil would love nothing more than to gut the RFS, but in order to do so they have to get agreement from our side to open it up for modification. This is why we’ve drawn a hard line in the sand: “No changes to the RFS.” Most, if not all, leaders in our industry agree that any discussion of RFS repeal or reform is contrary to the best interests of our industry, our corn producers and the economies our industry supports.
The path forward after 2022 isn’t perfect. It may require we continue to stay engaged in Washington, D.C. for the long-term. It may mean we all have to let future presidents and EPA administrators know how we feel and push them as hard as we have these past years. But all of us stand to benefit keeping the law intact and unchanged.
The consequences of failing to do so are indisputable. Without biofuels like ethanol, we’d be forced to use even more toxic, cancer-causing chemicals in our gasoline. Renewable biofuels reduce greenhouse gasses by anywhere from 34 percent to over 100 percent, depending on the feedstock. Ethanol also has the highest blending octane of available additives, which helps engines run cooler, more efficiently and with fewer emissions. These reasons alone should leave no doubt in your mind about the power our industry has to change the world around us.
Many of you have been part of this battle for years and for that, I’d like to personally thank you. Thank you for taking the time to call your elected officials, send letters to the Obama Administration or mail postcards to the EPA expressing your support for the renewable fuels industry. President Abraham Lincoln, and countless others after him, once said: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” That’s exactly what we do here at POET. We are creating the solutions that will eliminate toxic fuels from our lives and working tirelessly toward an oil-free world.
Other Stories in this collection:
In Sight: Creating the Future
by Jeff Broin, Executive Chairman and CEO of POET