Rep. King: Shutdown shouldn’t delay renewable fuel regulation

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He added that, if the EPA would not have enough manpower to get the 2014 fuel standard out on time, it should divert resources from controversial upcoming emissions limits on coal and natural gas power plants instead.

“I’m willing to stall off an EPA rule just to let those coal producers stay in the marketplace,” he said.

The EPA has been consistently late with its annual targets for the renewable fuel standard, which sets yearly thresholds for refiners to mix biofuel with gasoline. The standard for 2013 was only released this August, months after its November 2012 deadline.

The fuel standard was developed as a way to wean Americans off of foreign sources of oil and encourage development in new energy sectors.

The oil and gas industry has opposed it for being too stringent.

Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said after the Wednesday event that he was concerned the shutdown could further delay the standard.

“I think clearly the shutdown delays further because they’ve furloughed all the EPA employees, which is unfortunate,” he said.

All but about 5 percent of the EPA's workers have been furloughed by the shutdown. 

The API sued the Obama administration over the requirement Tuesday, charging that the 2013 mandate was “unrealistic” and “simply bad policy.”

King represents a number of corn producers in Iowa and has long been a supporter of government support for ethanol, which is made from corn, even while opposing other forms of government intervention in the market.

Without the fuel standard, King said, the fledgling renewable fuel industry would not have been able to get off the ground.

“Now we have an industry that’s been built because we had to go to government to get market access. If you could’ve made or produced a gallon of ethanol back in those years [before the standard was implemented], you couldn’t have sold it,” he said.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) opposes the renewable fuel standard because he said it raises corn prices. On Wednesday, he said that a possible delay of the EPA's regulations would be incidental in the larger scheme of the shutdown and fight over the debt limit.

“The least of our worries is whether a regulation, even this, gets written a month sooner or a month later because of the shutdown,” he said.

“Yes, I would be concerned about what impact it would have on the EPA doing its work, but that’s incidental to my sort of existential concern about the integrity of the country if we don’t pay our bills.”