Following a hearing last week held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform regarding the Renewable Fuels Standard, ethanol group Growth Energy wasn't happy its representatives didn't get an invite to the party.
The hearing examined the role of the RFS, and more specifically how it relates to the Environmental Protection Agency. Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements Chairman Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., opened the meeting with comments of concern regarding the RFS.
"There is increasing evidence that the RFS is not meeting the original bi-fold purpose: 'to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security,' and 'to increase the production of clean renewable fuels,'" Lankford said.
He also questioned the sustainability of ethanol when compared to gasoline due to recent studies that have pointed to increased water use to produce corn for ethanol, and it's long-term benefits at a time of a domestic energy boom.
Lankford also addressed the "blend wall" – the point at which adding the required volume of ethanol to gasoline supplies would result in ethanol blends that exceed 10%, which is the maximum ethanol content approved for sale for use in all vehicles.
Lankford also said due to some studies that question the safety of ethanol in all engines, some consumers don't want it at all, and instead choose pure gasoline.
"By requiring refiners to produce a product that consumers can’t use and don’t want, it is only logical that this constriction of the market will increase fuel prices, causing economic damage," he said.
According to Growth Energy, no biofuels producers or stakeholders were invited to testify at the hearing. The group explained that leaving such stakeholders out proved the hearing was "nothing more than a forum for those with a vested interest in not wanting to see our nation adopt an alternative to fossil-based fuel."
Participants included Christopher Gundler, Environmental Protection Agency Office of Transportation and Air Quality director; Jack Gerard, American Petroleum Institute CEO; Lucian Pugliaresi, Energy Policy Research Foundation Inc. president; Joel Brandenberger, National Turkey Federation President; and Jeremy Martin, Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program senior scientist.
The National Corn Growers was also concerned that corn and ethanol viewpoints were not invited.
"While we were denied the opportunity to testify before the committee on this issue, it is imperative we contact our members in the House and Senate and express the importance of this issue to our farms, our communities and our country," NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis said.
Growth Energy also highlighted ethanol positives despite what they characterized as overall negative discussion. The group said ethanol continues to be a viable alternative for consumers.
"At a time when gas prices keep going up, the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy should be looking at why these prices are consistently near record levels, instead of parading a litany of critics of the only cost-competitive alternative to oil before the committee," the group said.
Energy Committee keeping an eye on RFS, too
Last week's hearing coincides with a review of the Renewable Fuels Standard by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been ongoing since March.
The review is a five-part series, each part soliciting comments on the blend wall, agricultural sector impacts, environmental impacts and the latest request, overall energy policy.
Groups are asked to weigh in on the questions posed by the committee on each topic prior to a renewal of the RFS. Last month, Ag groups responded to questions regarding agricultural impacts.
The latest question series regarding general RFS energy policy was released Friday.