Issues - Providing Responsible Oversight of Federal Ethanol Policy

Providing Responsible Oversight of Federal Ethanol Policy

Questioning Ethanol's Compatibility with Existing Engines, Transportation and Infrastructure Needs, Economic Sustainability, and Environmental and Public Health Impacts.

Lack of access to ethanol free gasoline has been a primary concern in Oklahoma and across the nation: ethanol decreases fuel economy and in some instances can cause fuel damage. 

In response, Senator Inhofe introduced The Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act (S. 1085) in April 2011.  This bipartisan, bicameral legislation, will allow for a more sensible implementation of corn-ethanol policy while encouraging greater competition in the pursuit of advanced biofuels: it will allow fuel markets to respond to consumer demand for ethanol free gasoline where it exists.  Specifically, this bill would give individual States the option not to participate in the corn ethanol portion of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  It also expands the definition of the cellulosic biofuel carve-out to include algae and any non-ethanol renewable fuel derived from renewable biomass. This new feedstock-neutral definition will encourage the use of renewable feedstocks such as algae, while promoting the production of drop-in fuels, which are both engine friendly and can be readily blended and transported in the nation's existing distribution infrastructure.

Link to Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act

Background:

With the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), Congress pushed too much corn ethanol too fast.

The most pressing issue is the "blend wall": EISA mandated 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol by 2015, yet long-standing federal regulations require that a gallon of gasoline should contain no more than 10 percent ethanol.  So there will soon be more corn ethanol production than the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline.  Rather than reform EISA corn mandates, ethanol advocates have taken the wrong approach and lobbied EPA for higher, mid-level blends in gasoline.  EPA recently approved the use of E-15 in all 2001 and newer light duty cars and trucks, despite mounting questions about ethanol's compatibility with existing engines, its transportation and infrastructure needs, its economic sustainability-and numerous other issues.

Learn More about Senator Inhofe's Ethanol Legislation and EPA Oversight:

Press Release: Overwhelming Bipartisan Vote Shows Momentum Continues to Build Against Ethanol Mandate 

Press Release: Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Introduced to Address Ethanol Mandate Concerns

LISTEN: Inhofe to Introduce Legislation to Address Corn Ethanol Mandate (05/26/11)

EPW HEARING HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS WITH CORN ETHANOL MANDATE (04/14/11)

WATCH: Inhofe Hearing Statement: Oversight Hearing on Domestic Renewable Fuels: From Ethanol to Advanced Biofuels  (04/13/11)

Des Moines Register: Senators to Put Spotlight on Ethanol  (04/11/11) - It won’t be the friendliest venue. Both the committee chair, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and the top Republican, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, are critical of federal incentives for corn ethanol. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be the lead witness Wednesday, and he’ll be accompanied by a top official from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is deciding how to implement a higher limit for the amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline. Some critics of ethanol also will get to air their concerns, including Kris Kiser of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, which has fought the move to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline.

NYT/Greenwire: Boxer-Inhofe To Hold Hearing on Ethanol in April  (03/07/11)

LISTEN: Inhofe on Grandy Group Talks About Effort to Stop EPA Energy Tax and New Alliance on Ethanol  (02/07/11)

Inhofe Welcomes Boxer Commitment to Hold EPW Hearing on Ethanol 01/31/11)

Inhofe Urges EPW Oversight Hearings of Ethanol Policy:  Plans to Reintroduce Legislation to Provide Clear Gasoline  (01/21/11)

Senators Snowe, Inhofe Request EPA Evaluation of E15 Waiver on Fuel Supply (01/06/11)

Inhofe: EPA'S E15 Action Confirms Flaws in Fuel Mandate (10/13/10)

Inhofe: New Bill Restores Consumer Choice at the Pump (08/10/10)

Inhofe Op-Ed: Don't Increase Ethanol Percentage in Gasoline (07/29/09)

Letters

Bipartisan letter sent to EPA on the unintended consequences of the E15 Waiver  (01/06/11)

Letter sent to EPA along with Senator Snowe regarding reduced availability of pure gasoline  (01/05/11)

Letter from 39 stakeholders requesting a Senate hearing on mid-level ethanol blends (08/25/10)

Letter from 36 groups expressing opposition to potential amendment on authorization of mid-level ethanol blends (07/26/10)

Ethanol and Inhofe in the Press

Release: New Ethanol Label Will Have Little Impact on Oklahoma  (06/28/11) - Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued the following statement today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its new label for E15.  "Today the EPA introduced a new orange and black warning label for E-15 blends that will be located at any pump in the United States that dispenses E-15," Senator Inhofe said. "The good news is that Oklahomans, who have a strong dislike of E-15, have little to worry about because E-15 isn't coming to Oklahoma any time in the near future. The reasons are straightforward. Retailers will not sell E-15 because of substantial fuel tank and dispensing infrastructure costs, as well as liability issues associated with misfueling and potential engine damage.

Release: Overwhelming Bipartisan Vote Shows Momentum Continues to Build Against Ethanol Mandate  (06/16/11) - Senator Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, commented on today's vote on an amendment offered by Senators Feinstein (CA) and Coburn (OK) to the Economic Development Revitalization Act (S. 782), which eliminates the excise tax credit for ethanol. The amendment (Feinstein Amendment #476) passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 73-27 in the Senate. "Today's vote clearly demonstrates that Congress pushed too much corn ethanol too fast in 2007," Senator Inhofe said. "I appreciate the efforts of Senators Feinstein and Coburn to draw attention to this issue: Congress rarely reaches such overwhelming bipartisan agreements and I hope today's vote will provide the momentum needed to make necessary changes to the corn ethanol mandate."

E&E News: Inhofe floats ethanol opt-out bill (5/27/11) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) yesterday offered measures in both chambers that would let states opt out of complying with federal mandates for corn ethanol use and expand the definition of advanced biofuels. The legislation would allow states to pass laws "opting out" of the federal renewable fuel standard's conventional ethanol targets. If a state approved such a law, U.S. EPA would then reduce the national mandate by a percentage to reflect that state's share of consumption in national gasoline usage. To help protect the market for zero-ethanol gasoline, EPA would then issue credits to fuel terminals that handle gasoline for opt-out states. That mechanism is designed to avoid penalizing fuel terminals for difficulty meeting their own ethanol targets thanks to the opt-out market.

Biofuels Update: INHOFE TO REINTRODUCE BILL TO ALLOW STATES TO OFFER 'ETHANOL-FREE GASOLINE' (05/26/11) - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, will reintroduce legislation this afternoon that would allow states to opt out of the conventional biofuel requirement under RFS2 and would also expand the definition of cellulosic biofuel under the regulation, OPIS has confirmed.  Much of the bill is the same as Inhofe introduced during the previous Congress, Republican EPW staffers explained to OPIS. Specifically, the bill would allow states to opt-out of just the conventional biofuel carve-out of RFS2. The bulk of the conventional biofuel requirement is comprised of corn- based ethanol. Inhofe's bill would essentially allow for "ethanol-free gasoline," the senator previously explained.

Tulsa World: Letter to the Editor: Ethanol’s questionable value  (02/16/11)

The Oklahoman: Inhofe, environmentalists on same side  (02/06/11)

VIDEO: Oklahoma Matters with Ed Kelley: Ethanol has given Jim Inhofe a strange bedfellow (02/03/11)

Tulsa World: Inhofe's new allies on ethanol issue surprising (01/30/11) - Inhofe again stepped up his efforts against ethanol after the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol to be sold for newer model passenger vehicles. He believes he has won a commitment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to hold a hearing on ethanol. "We are rolling. We are going to get this done," said Inhofe, the panel's top Republican. A date for that hearing has not been announced. During his frequent travels across Oklahoma, the senator said, he runs across signs promoting the availability of "100 percent gas." "What I am doing is very popular right now," Inhofe said, adding that he routinely hears from Oklahomans who do not want to use gasoline with ethanol. Concerns over ethanol include potential damage to certain engines, confusion at the pump, lack of availability for "clear" gasoline, lower mileage for fuel with ethanol and higher feed stock prices for farmers. Inhofe has warned that the EPA is pushing too much ethanol too fast and criticized Congress for doing too little to provide appropriate oversight of such decisions.

Reuters: EPA Ethanol Expansion Hardens a Divide (01/27/11) - But Inhofe, one of the Senate's longest-serving climate change deniers, doesn't see eye-to-eye with Grassley. He has questioned ethanol's compatibility with existing engines, its transportation and infrastructure needs, its economic sustainability and its environmental and public health impacts. For instance, Inhofe joined other legislators - including Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jack Reed, D-R.I. and Ben Cardin, D-Md. - earlier this month to write a letter to the EPA outlining their opposition to the E15 decision and its unintended consequences. Inhofe said he plans to reintroduce legislation addressing the lack of availability of ethanol-free gasoline."This approach will restore choice at the pump," the Oklahoman said, "and allow fuel producers to respond to market demands, specifically, when and where consumers prefer clear gas."

Tulsa World: Sullivan, Inhofe blast EPA ruling on ethanol (01/22/11) - Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, a major player in Congress on environmental and transportation issues, also urged oversight hearings on the EPA and its latest ethanol announcement. Democrats, however, set the agenda in the Senate. "EPA's latest action continues to push too much ethanol too fast,'' Inhofe said. "I have expressed serious concerns about ethanol and related fuels issues since passage of the 2007 energy bill.'' He said that measure doubled the corn-based ethanol mandate despite mounting questions about ethanol's compatibility with existing engines, its economic sustainability, its environmental impact and its transportation needs.

Des Moines Register: Senate ethanol opponents attack E15 plan (01/20/11) - That means fewer stations may sell ethanol-free gasoline for use by consumers who are trying to avoid putting ethanol in boats and power equipment."This situation is occurring today in many rural regions of our country. Recently, the major distributor of pure gasoline in New England ceased providing this fuel to local distributors causing a scramble to locate additional supplies," wrote Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Hill: Senators mount opposition to EPA's decision to allow higher ethanol blends (01/07/11) - A bipartisan coalition of senators are mounting increased opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow some vehicles to fuel up with higher blends of ethanol in their gasoline. In two consecutive letters to the EPA this week, the senators criticized the EPA's decision to allow 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) in gasoline for model year 2007 and newer vehicles, and asked the agency to analyze the effects of increased ethanol use on the vehicle fleet.

Tulsa World: Inhofe rips EPAs approval of increased ethanol use (10/14/10) - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Wednesday that a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow an increase in ethanol for fuel used in newer vehicles would have little impact on consumers or the marketplace. "That's because very few of the nation's retailers will actually sell E-15 anytime in the foreseeable future," Inhofe, R-Okla., said, referring to the fuel, which can contain as much as 15 percent ethanol. "The reasons are straightforward: substantial fuel tank and dispensing infrastructure costs as well as liability issues associated with misfueling and potential engine damage." Inhofe also said the EPA's action to allow E-15 for vehicles built since the 2007 model year again points to the need for Congress to revise the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which includes a mandate for corn-based ethanol.

E&E News: Groups Request Senate Hearing on EPA's E15 decision (08/25/10) - Thirty-nine industry and environmental groups requested a Senate hearing next month to examine U.S. EPA's handling of a proposal that would boost the amount of ethanol blended in gasoline. In a letter to Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the panel's ranking Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the groups say there are too many unanswered questions about EPA's looming decision on whether to increase ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. EPA is expected to decide the matter this fall after the Energy Department completes vehicle testing.

The Hill: Inhofe Crafting Measure To Allow States To Offer Pure Gasoline (06/24/10) - The legislation would provide for states to offer pure gasoline alongside ethanol-gas mixtures, for which federal regulations currently call. Ethanol is supposed to make up 10 percent of the content of gas sold in the United States. An aide to Inhofe said that they see optimism for bipartisan support for the option, possibly along the fault lines seen in the 2007 energy bill, where some conservatives joined liberals, driven by environmental concerns, in opposition to the ethanol mandates.

National Media Coverage

POLITICO Pro: Pawlenty's ethanol speech underscores Hill efforts (05/24/11) - Tim Pawlenty's call Monday for scaling down ethanol tax incentives underscores efforts already under way by congressional supporters of the corn-based additive to hasten the transition from a decades-old tax credit - before they're beaten to the punch. The former Minnesota governor - kicking off his GOP presidential campaign in corn-heavy Iowa no less - said ethanol subsidies need to go in order to help lower the federal debt. "We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it," Pawlenty said. "The hard truth is that there are no longer any sacred programs." The ethanol industry and its congressional supporters say they already have heard and understood that message.

The Hill: Draft EPA report: Biofuels threaten habitat, water quality (01/28/11) - The draft finds, for instance, that growing biofuels crops can affect water quality through erosion and fertilizer runoff, among other factors. The report comes as ethanol is already under attack from some environmentalists, and lawmakers seeking to strip tax subsidies. But renewable fuels are valued as a way to displace oil reliance and boost rural economies, and retain powerful political support on Capitol Hill.

New York Times: E.P.A. Approves Increased Ethanol in Auto Fuel (01/21/11) - Service-station owners, meanwhile, have noted that many of their pumps are not certified by Underwriters Laboratories to pump E15, and few are willing to incur the expense to replace equipment to accommodate the new formulation. And despite the E.P.A.'s assurances, some motorists and engine manufacturers still might require further convincing that higher formulations would not cause engine damage and thereby void vehicle warranties.

Wall Street Journal: EPA to Allow Higher Ethanol Blends in 2001-06 Autos  (01/20/11) - Livestock ranchers, auto makers and oil refiners have all challenged the Obama administration's efforts to expand ethanol use in cars. While the groups have varying motives for opposing greater corn-ethanol production, they-along with many environmentalists-generally say the government hasn't conducted sufficient testing to warrant higher concentrations of ethanol in motor fuels. Some have also expressed concern that encouraging more ethanol production could exacerbate the recent run-up in food prices, by diverting corn away from food production to fuel production, but the ethanol industry has disputed such criticisms.

Consumer Reports: EPA approves E15 fuel, raises concerns EPA approves E15 fuel, raises concerns (01/24/11)  - On Friday, the EPA released a long-awaited decision allowing the use of 15-percent ethanol in regular gasoline to be burned in cars made from 2001 to 2006.  Gas station owners, as well as makers of boats, snowmobiles, and yard equipment, resisted the move, saying the EPA's proposal for signage is inadequate and consumers might use the fuel in non-approved products, risking premature failure. E15 is still not approved for use in cars older than the 2001 model year. So today's regular fuel, which often contains 10-percent ethanol, or E10, will still be available.

Documents and Reports

Comments submitted to EPA on E15 rule from the Environmental Working Group  

Link to EPA Announcement on E15 Partial Waiver Decision



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