Mar 07 2016
Amendment to Energy Bill Would End Mandate by 2022
America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since the creation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) a decade ago. What began as a federal program to incorporate more biofuels – such as corn ethanol – into the fuel supply and reduce oil imports has failed to meet stated objectives and produced a variety of unintended consequences.
I have introduced an amendment to the Senate energy bill that would sunset the RFS in 2022. Unless Congress acts, full control over this mandate will be turned over to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) beginning in 2022.
Flawed Premise and Projections
As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I remain engaged in discussions about the future of the RFS and its effect on jobs and the economy. Last month, our committee conducted an oversight hearing on the RFS during which the deputy administrator for the Energy Information Administration, Howard Gruenspecht, pointed out the shortcomings of the fuel standard’s premise and projections.
In Mississippi, several small refiners are having trouble complying with the RFS and its associated costs. Some have applied for hardship exemptions but have yet to hear back. These small refiners employ hundreds of Mississippians in well-paying, skilled jobs, which are placed at risk unless Congress takes action.
Rising Opposition From All Sides
Opposition is increasing from both liberals and conservatives and from all geographic areas, even the Corn Belt. There is growing awareness that the elimination of the fuel standard could bolster energy markets and actually decrease carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, EPA’s failure to meet multiple program deadlines casts doubt on the agency’s ability to manage the RFS effectively after 2022.
Ending the RFS would also save money for consumers. For example, biofuels like ethanol in the fuel supply mean drivers are paying for fewer miles per gallon of gasoline. The Institute for Energy Research says the RFS has cost consumers an additional $83 billion since 2007.
New Energy Realities
I have consistently supported efforts to curb harmful ethanol mandates. When the 2012 drought led to corn shortages, I was part of a bipartisan group of Senators calling for relaxation of the RFS in order to give consumers relief from higher prices for both food and fuel. In the last Congress, I introduced legislation to prohibit gasoline blends with 15 percent ethanol, which have been shown to cause engine damage.
A sunset of the RFS would recognize that the program has fallen far short of its intentions. It would also reflect the need for policies that address our country’s current energy realities. The United States has become the biggest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. Renewable fuels are no longer the standard-bearer for lessening dependence on foreign oil and lowering carbon dioxide emissions. America’s energy boom should encourage more strategic and successful ways of moving forward.