Oil lobby optimistic on repealing renewable fuel standard

The American Petroleum Institute is optimistic it can convince a majority in the House to endorse reforming or repealing the renewable fuel standard (RFS), an official with the group said.

API has counted 205 representatives who have either signed letters or co-sponsored legislation to reduce the amount of renewable fuels that refiners must blend or repeal the mandate altogether, said Bob Greco, downstream group director at API.

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“You get to 218 members, you now have a majority of [the House] who sees a problem with the RFS,” Greco told reporters Thursday. “And we’re close to that.”

Greco sees similar strong, bipartisan support in the Senate, he said.

API wants the standard completely repealed because of the cost to fuel refiners, the damage renewable fuels can cause to engines, the limited availability of the fuels and other factors. But the group also endorses significant changes to the rule that would reduce the annual volume mandates the Environmental Protection Agency sets for refiners.

“We are continuing to educate Congress. We have no doubt that that number — 205 — will grow,” Greco said.

The meeting with reporters preceded the launch of a new ad campaign in the Washington, D.C., area, encouraging lawmakers to reform the RFS.

Americans United for Change announced its own ad campaign Thursday to urge EPA to drastically increase the renewable mandate level. That group’s commercials will appear March 23 during Sunday talk shows on major networks. 

The RFS decreases reliance on overseas oil, helps meet the country’s fuel needs, saves consumers money and creates jobs, Americans United for Change said in a statement.

But Greco is concerned that a proposal late last year from the EPA to reduce the RFS mandate will distract lawmakers from repealing it. The agency missed the Nov. 30 deadline to make a final rule, and has not committed to permanently reducing the level.

“While we obviously want EPA to do the right thing, we don’t want Congress to be distracted by that, and take their eye off the fact that even if EPA does do the right thing in the final rule, it will be at least six months late, and it’ll be non-sustainable,” Greco said. “Don’t let this proposal distract you from the need to fundamentally address the problems with the RFS.”

The EPA is supposed to finalize RFS figures by Nov. 30 for the coming year. It has not yet finalized a 2014 standard, but when it does, the standard will be retroactive.

The agency proposed in November to reduce the mandate for ethanol and other fuels to 15.21 billion gallons, down from 16.55 billion in 2013. Greco said he is not sure if the final rule will keep a similar level or if EPA would increase the mandate, as groups like the Renewable Fuels Association have asked.