Grant Menke, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (left); and Little Sioux Corn Processors CEO Steve Roe (right) meet with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) during the ACE Biofuels Beltway March fly-in.
“Corn growers should feel encouraged to learn that by and large, the RFS seems to be supported by a large percentage of members of Congress,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), after the organization’s Biofuels Beltway March last week in Washington, D.C. Some 60 people, including the president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and several corn growers from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio, participated in ACE’s annual legislative fly-in.
The group visited a number of congressional representatives and staffers to encourage continued support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as well as a level playing field with the oil industry when it comes to energy policymaking. ACE also reminded Washington officials about the importance of E15 to all Americans.
Market-driven demand helped by the RFS has enabled corn growers to find additional markets for their product. Similarly, seed and technology firms have benefitted, encouraging them to further innovate so that they can help growers to produce more corn on the same acre moving forward. “We think the future will continue to be stable for corn and other feedstocks with the RFS in place,” Jennings told Farm Industry News.
Jennings was pleased to see strong support for the RFS. “A lot of members of Congress are sophisticated enough to know that the RFS isn’t perfect, but on balance, it is working.” Yet, some members of Congress and staffers do not fully understand the flexibility that the EPA has to make adjustments in volumes of alternative fuels required to be blended into transportation fuel as necessary, he suggested.
The ACE group received questions about last year’s drought and whether Congress should step in should widespread drought continue this year. “We explained that there is a process where a waiver can be sought or that EPA itself can initiate a waiver,” Jennings said. He pointed out that when court cases vacated the cellulosic portions of the RFS, EPA had the flexibility to make adjustments.
Jennings added that ACE spent time informing congressional representatives and staffers that the RFS is also not a tax incentive. In fact, the ethanol tax credit expired in 2011. The RFS is more about supporting a level playing field between alternative fuels and the oil industry when it comes to the fuel market.
There will be congressional hearings to review the RFS, starting with the House Energy & Commerce Committee. This is expected to begin after the Easter recess. The Senate will also likely hold hearings and they could continue until this fall. “We’re not sure if the hearings will be balanced; too often they have not and we’ll be on guard for that. We welcome fair hearings,” Jennings said, adding, “We expect that the RFS will remain intact despite the oil industry spending millions to repeal it.”