Oil-and-gas lobby talks biofuel rule with White House, EPA, senior lawmakers

Gerard met with several top Obama administration officials, including: Heather Zichal, President Obama’s top climate adviser; Gina McCarthy, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, who is Obama’s pick to run EPA; Bob Perciasepe, acting EPA administrator; and Gene Sperling, Obama’s chief economic advisor.

For his part, Obama has been a staunch supporter of biofuels. His fiscal 2014 budget plan proposes major increases for alternative fuel research, and he also is pushing an alternative fuel and vehicle research fund.

McCarthy, who could end up leading EPA, also has touted the impact biofuels have had on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

With the administration proving a possible roadblock to its goals, API also has focused on the legislative route. It formally backed a bill introduced last week by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would repeal the renewable fuel standard, and has been busy lobbying lawmakers to oppose the rule.

Noting that, Gerard's Wednesday trip to the Hill involved confabs with a host of lawmakers, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and a number of House and Senate committee chairmen and ranking members.

Among the lawmakers receiving a visit from Gerard were: House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.); Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on Energy and Commerce; House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.); and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

API has warned in recent months that refiners have to blend fuels with a higher ethanol concentration that damages car engines to meet the rule’s accelerating blending targets.

It also contends the rule mandates refiners use next-generation biofuels that are not yet produced at commercial scale, or buy credits when those biofuels are not available.

The biofuel industry is vehemently defending the rule, and says API wants to end it because biofuels are eating at their members’ profits.

The biofuel industry says any changes to the rule will spook investment in next-generation biofuels, which it contends are starting to come online in commercial volume.