Biofuels battle isn’t over yet (video)

WASHINGTON — A leading biofuels backer says oil industry scare tactics prompted the Obama administration to slash renewable fuel targets for next year.

Tom Buis, CEO of the trade group Growth Energy, told Platts Energy Week that the oil industry successfully fanned fears about high gasoline prices tied to the 8-year-old renewable fuels standard. That, in turn, may have helped convince the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the proposed renewable fuel quota for 2014 to 15.21 billion gallons, well below the 18.15 billion required by law and 1.34 billion gallons below the 2013 requirement.

“The oil industry scared a lot of people by saying this was going to drive up gasoline prices,” Buis told the energy news show. “People got scared about high gas prices. And if you ask any elected official around the country about gasoline prices, they get scared to death because it has such a tremendous impact around our country.”

Oil industry trade groups, led by the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, had insisted that the EPA must lower the 2014 quotas, because they have hit a “blend wall,” a point when they can no longer mix in enough ethanol to meet the mandate’s target volumes without exceeding the 10 percent threshold acceptable for use in all cars and trucks.

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Renewable fuel supporters say the biofuel battle isn’t over. Buis said the biofuels industry will take advantage of the 60-day public comment period on EPA’s proposal — set to be finalized next year — to try to convince Obama administration officials to change their minds on the issue.

“We think they’ve put together a proposed rule that’s based on faulty information,” Buis said. “We’ll have the opportunity in the comment period to convince them.”

A major goal will be chipping away at the oil industry’s anti-RFS arguments on gasoline prices and the blend wall, biofuels backers say.

“It’s incumbent on us in this comment period to be able to take away those arguments with facts,” Buis told Platts Energy Week.

Ethanol supporters have already launched a lobbying blitz on the issue. In the week since EPA came out with its 2014 propose, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad launched a new “Protect the RFS” website last week, even as the Iowa RFS Coalition held a rally on the issue. Biodiesel producers briefed staffers on Capitol Hill. And ethanol trade groups, including Buis’ Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Corn Growers Association, met with EPA officials and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C.