GOP bill would repeal federal ethanol mandate

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A new Republican bill introduced Tuesday would completely repeal the federal mandate to blend ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) legislation would completely do away with the renewable fuel standard, which first took effect in 2005 and now requires increasing levels of ethanol and biodiesel to be put into traditional fossil fuels.

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The mandate invites frequent criticism from Republicans, the oil industry and sectors that complain the demand it creates for corn ethanol increases agricultural prices.

“Workers, refiners, producers, farmers and ranchers across the country are affected by the renewable fuel standard,” Cassidy said in a statement. “More mandates mean less jobs. It means families are paying more for gas and groceries.”

Cassidy represents Louisiana, one of the largest states in terms of fuel refining capacity. Refiners say that buying ethanol or fuel credits increases their prices, and they must pass those costs onto consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had trouble keeping up with the annual volume mandates amid a decrease in fuel use. The agency proposed mandate levels for 2014 through 2016 last month.

The proposal would increase ethanol levels, though not to the goals set out in the law, leading to criticisms from both supporters and opponents of the mandate.

“American energy production is increasing and fuel efficient technologies are improving,” Cassidy said. “Our workers need policies that help move our energy, farming and manufacturing industries forward — that starts by repealing the RFS.”

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have sponsored multiple legislative attempts at reforming the law by removing the ethanol mandate, but leaving other provisions, such as those for biodiesel.