In Letter to EPA Administrator, Senators Call for Continued Support of Biofuels, Rural America’s Economic Future

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken continued their push to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and support Minnesota’s rural communities. In a bipartisan letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Senators Klobuchar and Franken, along with 29 other colleagues, called on the Agency to reject a proposed change to the RFS that would hurt Minnesota’s agriculture economy and energy security.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard has helped drive innovation and boost local economies while reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Klobuchar. “We should be doing everything we can to support the expansion of renewable fuels – not throwing on the breaks. That’s why I’ve been pushing the EPA to abandon its proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard, which would create enormous uncertainty for an industry that’s vital to Minnesota’s rural economy.”

“The Renewable Fuel Standard contributes to homegrown jobs and homegrown energy and we need to protect it,” said Sen. Franken. “I'll continue to lead this charge and press the Obama Administration to reject cutting the RFS, because doing so would hinder investments in Minnesota’s rural economies and would be a setback to the nation's renewable energy strategy.”

The EPA’s proposed RFS rule would reduce the conventional ethanol target to 13 billion gallons. This is 800 million gallons below the 2013 target of 13.8 billion gallons, and 1.4 billion gallons below the 2014 statutory target of 14.4 billion gallons. The rule is also a setback for advanced biofuels, such as biodiesel. While industry is currently producing around 1.7 billion gallons of biodiesel, the draft EPA rule sets the biodiesel target at 1.28 billion gallons.

The following senators also signed on to the letter: Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).      

The full text of the letter is below.


The Honorable Gina McCarthy

EPA Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We are writing to share serious concerns regarding the EPA’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS.) Congress passed the RFS to increase the amount of renewable fuel utilized in our nation’s fuel supply. The Administration’s proposal is a significant step backward – undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America’s economic future. We urge you to modify your proposal.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provides the EPA with significant authority to adjust to shifting conditions over the 15-year life of the policy. In any given year, EPA can adjust the advanced biofuel and total biofuel volumes based on anticipated production.While EPA has used the authority to adjust biofuels levels in the past based on anticipated production levels, your proposal, for the first time, adjusts the 2014 overall volumes based on criteria not clearly identified in the law below anticipated production levels of biofuels and even below previous years’ RFS levels. 

Further, defining the “blend wall” as blends of E10 and then waiving RFS requirements beyond the blend wall creates significant barriers to future biofuels growth. Lack of infrastructure remains one of the key hurdles to further deployment of biofuels into the market. Limiting RFS to levels that can be met with existing infrastructure eliminates incentives to invest in the technologies and infrastructure necessary to meet our domestic policy goal of increasing biofuels production and use.

If the rule as proposed were adopted, it will:

  • Replace domestic biofuel production with fossil fuels, contributing to a greater dependence on foreign sources of oil and reduce our energy security.
  • Increase unemployment as renewable fuel producers cut back production.
  • Halt investments in cellulosic, biodiesel and other advanced renewable fuels. Rolling back the RFS will, potentially strand billions of dollars of private capital;
  • Undermine the deployment of renewable fuels infrastructure throughout the country;
  • Threaten the viability of the RFS, thereby solidifying an oil-based transportation sector and lowering consumer choice at the pump.

With these concerns in mind, we request that EPA revise the proposed 2014 RVOs in a manner that promotes investments in the next generation of biofuels and the infrastructure necessary to deploy those fuels into the market. Without a revised proposal, the EPA’s rule will bring severe economic consequences, and prevent the growth of the renewable fuel sector.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.