White House steps up biofuel support amid escalating attacks

Both the House and the Senate have held hearings this week and last that touched on the mandate, which requires refiners to combine 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into conventional petroleum by 2022.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will also hold a hearing on the blending rule next week. The panel’s top two members, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), have produced a series of white papers on the rule.

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Measures to repeal the standard have been filed in both chambers. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade association, supports those bills.

The oil industry says refiners are being forced to buy credits for next generation biofuels that haven’t yet reach commercial scale to meet the mandate’s targets. It also says refiners are approaching a “blend wall” in which they’ll need to blend higher concentrations of ethanol fuel to meet the rule’s accelerating marks.

Some environmental groups also have challenged the standard, though they're looking for changes rather than eliminating the rule.

They have questioned the environmental benefits of the standard, as they say it promotes corn ethanol production that relies on the clearing of wetlands and trees to create space for corn feedstock.

Some lawmakers have signaled tweaks are possible. A full repeal is unlikely though, as the biofuels industry has a committed base of Midwest lawmakers backing the renewable fuel standard. 

The rule’s supporters contend it has been an economic boon for rural communities. They say maintaining it is important for driving investment into next-generation varieties the industry says are starting to come online. 

Zichal spoke to the economic aspect on Thursday, calling the renewable fuel standard an “opportunity to develop a new competitive industry.”