Oil industry begins running new ad on renewable fuels (video)

The American Petroleum Institute on Monday launched a new round of advertising taking aim at an eight-year-old renewable fuels mandate it wants Congress to repeal.

The new television ad features everyday people behind the wheel, at a car service station and stranded on the side of the road — all talking about the renewable fuel standard that forces refiners to blend in steadily escalating amounts of ethanol and advanced biofuels.

“I’m about to hit something that could damage my engine,” says one motorist, as she buckles her seatbelt. “It’s avoidable, but I’m heading right for it,” says another driver. The apparent obstacle is the renewable fuel requirement and a 15 percent ethanol blend known as E15, which one of the actors warns, can “damage our car engines.”

With lawmakers in their home states during a month-long congressional recess, API is running the TV ads in California, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Colorado and inside the Beltway.

Related story: Oil companies break with trade group on RFS

The group also started running new print and online ads as part of its broader “Fuel for Thought” campaign against the mandate. An earlier spot featured a made-for-TV mechanic touting the RFS as good for his business. Critics said the advertisement missed the mark by villifying mechanics.
The Environmental Protection Agency last week promised to take a flexible approach and lower quotas when it sets volumetric targets for 2014. It also lowered the 2013 quota for cellulosic biofuels made from non-edible plant parts to 6 million gallons, down from an earlier proposal to require 14 million gallons of the stuff.

But the API said the government’s changes for 2013 — and its pledge to be more flexible next year — doesn’t do enough to keep them from crashing into a looming blend wall, where they can no longer mix in enough ethanol to meet the mandate’s volumetric targets without exceeding a 10 percent threshold acceptable for use in all cars and trucks.

Biofuels boosters say the RFS was designed to drive innovation around alternative fuels while helping to wean the U.S. off imported oil. If Congress dismantles the RFS or the EPA dramatically reduces required volumes, they say, it could jeopardize planned new biofuels production facilities and costly research into promising new technologies.