Recent Events Show Biofuels Battle is Entering a New Stage

Recent days have brought developments that both depress and encourage biofuels advocates, and in some cases, get them mad.

Let’s start with the oil industry ratcheting up its challenge to anything it perceives as intruding on its market. The American Petroleum Institute, still smarting from EPA’s rejection earlier this month of a request from several governors to waive corn ethanol volume requirements set by the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), has lashed out with a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging the agency’s mandate for 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2013 under the RFS.

The new requirement represents a 28-percent increase from the 2012 volume of biodiesel EPA calls for blending in the nation’s transportation fuel mix. The API, the oil industry’s principal trade group representing firms like Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, claims the higher level will raise the cost of making the sustainable fuel alternative.

API continues to trot out the same misinformation to discredit the RFS, showing that the oil industry will do anything it can to undermine the success of domestically produced renewable fuels, feeding the nation’s addiction to foreign oil and disregarding the economic benefits and job gains created by the renewable fuels sector.

Elsewhere, the National Council of Chain Restaurants launched a campaign based on the long-disproved contention that the RFS is increasing food prices. The council claims that Americans are dealing with “some of the highest food prices on record,” totaling ignoring the fact that food prices have increased, on average, less than 3 percent a year, tracked a 20-year trend. In 2010, a year when the ethanol industry produced a record amount of fuel, food prices experienced the lowest year-over-year inflation in half a century.

But this week also brought some encouraging news for biofuels champions. The Senate, in a bipartisan, 62-37 vote, removed language from a defense spending authorization bill that would have put severe limits on the military’s efforts to expand biofuel use in vehicles, planes and ship. The House must still vote on the spending bill, but the Senate vote gives renewable energy advocates some momentum in their efforts to make lawmakers understand the military’s biofuels program is reducing fuel costs, accelerating the market and creating jobs.

Still, the constant necessary throughout the roller-coaster ride is an awareness among all renewable energy advocates that 2013 will bring with it major challenges to the biofuels industry. As demonstrated this past week, the battle to retain the RFS is far from over. Given the challenges posed by the approaching “fiscal cliff” that Congress is trying to avoid, lawmakers must be made to understand the positive benefits that biofuels can make to the nation’s economy and to its energy security.

Meanwhile, the 25x’25 Alliance extends a genuine invitation to the oil and natural gas industry leaders to join in an ongoing dialogue over ways to ensure a safe and secure energy future. While the Alliance has long pursued the goal of meeting 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs with renewable resources by 2025, it also has openly recognized that oil and natural gas will remain the predominant energy resources among a diverse array of source supplies needed to meet all of our nation’s energy needs in the decades to come. These objectives do not have to conflict. Accommodation among energy interests not only can be reached; for the sake of our nation’s growth, prosperity and security, it must be reached.

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