“They don’t need to change the law,” Paul Beckwith, chief executive of the venture, Butamax Advanced Biofuels of Wilmington, Del., said in an interview. The program “as it’s currently configured is working, and there are good opportunities for increasing renewable levels beyond where they are today.”
The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, dates in its current form to 2007, when concerns about dependence on overseas oil and a desire to curb the use of fossil fuels induced Congress to set quotas for the use of alternatives to gasoline or diesel, such as ethanol and biodiesel.
Under the law, refiners such as Exxon Mobil must blend a certain amount of renewable fuels into their gasoline each year, with their contribution determined by their share of the fuel market. The Environmental Protection Agency and renewable-fuel producers say the mandate spurs production of U.S.-made fuels, helps corn farmers and cuts carbon emissions by replacing gasoline.
The efforts of BP and Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, which together spent $13.8 million on lobbying in 2012, show the fissures in the business community over the future of the rules, and the difficult path any overhaul must tread. A panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing on the program, as Republicans such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) push to scrap it.
Critics, ranging from motorcyclists to chicken farmers, focus on two issues.
Food retailers and food charities complain that use of corn to make ethanol is pushing up the cost of food.
Local chain restaurant owners pestered their advocacy group, the National Council of Chain Restaurants, to find out why their commodity costs were spiking, according to Robert Green, executive director of the Washington-based group. After hiring an outside research firm to conduct a study, “it was very clear that the RFS was a cause of it,” he said. The group, whose members include White Castle and Wendy’s, is launching a campaign in Washington it calls the Feed Food Fairness to repeal the RFS.
Lobbyists representing refiners such as Exxon, based in Irving, Tex., and Tesoro of Waltham, Mass., have a different objection. They say falling U.S. fuel demand means that requirements for ethanol may force its use higher than the 10 percent that the government says is safe for all engines, exceeding what the industry calls “the blendwall.”
“With each passing day or month, we’re going to see more movement” for repeal, Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents refiners such as Exxon and Tesoro, said.