Fuels America was created as a united voice to fight for the Renewable Fuel Standard. And they’ve got their work cut out for them.
When ethanol opponents saw this summer’s crippling drought conditions as a way to attack the country’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ethanol proponents didn’t waver – they got stronger.
A diverse set of stakeholders – from industry, national security, agriculture and more – came together to create Fuels America, a coalition committed to strengthening the country’s responsibility to energy independence.
“The industry, both the folks who produce ethanol from corn and those who produce renewable fuels from other feedstocks or are working on those technologies, saw a real need here,” said Ryan Cunningham, Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications for the Glover Park Group in Washington, D.C., the firm that helped bring the coalition together – and helps to get its message out via an aggressive national media campaign, a website and Twitter account.
“In the last couple of years, some of the policies that were essential for the growth of this industry had been removed, the tariff and the tax credit,” Cunningham continued. “So the last policy standing – and certainly the best policy, not only for the renewable fuels industry but the best renewable fuels policy we have in America – is the Renewable Fuel Standard. Opponents clearly set their sights on the RFS.
Renewable Fuels Standard Waiver
Livestock, poultry and food industry groups – as well as big oil – argued that drought-driven spikes in corn prices and diminished harvests were hurting Americans – and called for a waiver against RFS asking regulations to be relaxed.
The RFS is the nation’s clean energy policy that by 2022 calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be used in the U.S. per year. A certain percentage of the renewable fuel blended into petroleum-based transportation fuels must be cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel.
“We believe that the waiver was really the camel’s nose under the tent to kill the RFS completely,” said Cunningham.
Environmental Protection Agency officials denied the waiver on Nov. 16; however on Nov. 28, the American Petroleum Institute filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the 2013 RFS mandate to use 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2013, a 28 percent increase from the 2012 requirement.
A united voice
These continued attacks are why Fuels America was created, proponents say – and they are fully prepared to continue to set the record straight through the coalition.
“We were expecting a fight for the RFS in 2013, after the elections, but starting in about July when the drought was becoming more and more apparent, our opponents saw a chance to pounce,” said Doug Berven, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Sioux Falls-based POET. “The fact is, biofuels should have nothing to do with the drought. That’s Mother Nature – we have these things.
“But what we hear in Washington, D.C. a lot is, ‘You guys have to get your voices together,’ ” Berven continued. “Fuels America is that united voice that says the RFS is good energy policy, and it’s an important energy policy we have in the United States to help get us free of foreign oil.”
Strengthening our energy policy
Since 2000, domestically-grown renewable fuel has contributed to a 25 percent reduction in oil imports from the Persian Gulf, making the nation more energy independent. The U.S. economy has also saved $50 billion on imported fuel costs in 2011, thanks to renewable fuel. “The problem that some have with the RFS is that it is a threat to the status quo,” Berven said. “We’re working to strengthen our energy policy in this country to a more domestic, manageable, cleaner solution. And that is something that is not very popular with one of the most powerful political forces on the planet, which is petroleum. We believe that they do not want to give up market share – whether it’s good for the country or bad for the country, they don’t see it as the best thing for their bottom line.
“Ethanol, and biofuels, help create a better set of future circumstances for this country.”
And that includes fueling rural economies – helping farmers stay on their land, while making rural America a mighty economic engine that will help drive the U.S. economy forward.
All thanks to the RFS.
“Fuels America is built around one core idea: Renewable fuel is essential to the U.S. economy, our nation’s energy security, our rural communities and the environment,” said former Congressman Jim Greenwood, President and CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a Fuels America member. “More than 400,000 American jobs are supported by renewable transportation fuel, and America leads the world in renewable fuel innovation. That is why Fuels America’s diverse membership has come together to reset the national conversation on renewable fuel, protect the progress that has been made and ensure that America’s Renewable Fuel Standard continues its success.”