Republicans worry about eventual EPA control of ethanol mandate

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee raised concerns Wednesday about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) potential eventual control over the federal ethanol fuel mandate. 

Congress has provided the EPA with statutory blending requirements until 2022, at which time the Renewable Fuel Standard continues and the agency can set the levels on its own. 

Republicans — many of whom oppose the mandate — said Wednesday they’re confused about what the EPA will do when the agency is in control of setting the amount of ethanol refiners blend into their gasoline supplies.

“When does the market kick in?” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) asked. “When does a consumer get to say, I want E85 [a fuel blend made up of 85 percent ethanol], I want E10, I want E0?”

Christopher Grundler, the director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told the committee that Congress gave it a list of factors to consider should 2022 come around and the EPA takes over the formulation of blending levels. 

The EPA has a history of missing its deadlines for releasing blending levels, and when the agency put out three years of standards in December, it did so at levels well below what Congress originally mandated.

Grundler acknowledged those problems and told the committee EPA officials haven’t yet considered what to do with the mandate should Congress not step in before 2022. 

“We’ve had a hard enough time setting standards one year in the future,” he said. “Figuring out what the world is going to look like in 2022 is pretty hard, so to be honest, we have no plans for what the standards will look like after 2022.”

Rep. Paul GosarPaul GosarRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Lawmakers seek answers on Pentagon employees' casino, strip club charges House conservatives are winning MORE (R-Ariz.) told Grundler it was “odd” the agency isn’t already conducting forecasts for those years. Nicolas Loris, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the lack of certainty after 2022 means Congress should move quickly now to reform or repeal the RFS. 

“Ostensibly, whoever’s in control of the admin is going to tell the EPA to ramp up those targets, which makes opportunities to repeal the failed program now all the more important," he told the committee.