More than 150 House lawmakers and seven senators sent letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week, urging the agency to waive its renewal fuel standard (RFS) out of concern for economic harm from rising corn prices due to this summer’s drought, Inside EPA reports. The request echoes livestock groups’ recent petition to the EPA.
In response, ethanol industry officials have blasted the waiver requests, maintaining the RFS is “under attack” while arguing livestock producers lack authority to pursue a waiver request, as they are not directly regulated under the RFS.
Livestock producers and Washington lawmakers who sent the waiver requests to the EPA cited concerns about rising corn prices and falling supply due to the drought and the RFS.
“Relief from the [RFS] is extremely urgent because another short corn crop would be devastating to the animal agriculture industry, food manufacturers, food service providers, as well as to consumers,” the House letter says. “Ethanol now consumes more corn than animal agriculture, a fact directly attributable to the federal mandate. While the government cannot control the weather, it fortunately has one tool still available that can directly impact corn demand.”
“As you determine the 2013 volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard program, we urge you to take into consideration the impact of recent droughts, which are driving corn prices to record levels,” the Senate letter says. “More specifically, we are requesting that you issue a partial waiver to keep corn starch-based renewable fuel volumetric requirements for the RFS2 at the 2012 level in order to protect American families from a rising corn-to-fuel mandate that would lead to additional increases in food prices and potentially higher energy prices.”
The National Chicken Council, the Meat Institute, the National Turkey Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and other related groups praised the House effort, which came days after the industry sent its petition to the EPA.
Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association said the RFS program provides flexibility to allow refiners to carry their RFS obligations forward to another year if required. “The RFS is about refiners being able to meet their obligations. Refiners can meet their obligations, because of the flexibility built into this program,” he said, adding a waiver would create a negative precedent and uncertainty for investors in advanced biofuels by scaling back the volume requirements. “If this program is waived, it is sending a very negative signal to investors in that next generation.” (NACS: www.nacsonline.com)