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Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
Oversight – The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I’d first like to thank the Chairman for holding today’s hearing. On a jurisdictional matter, I hope that the Chair will agree with me that we need to aggressively exercise our jurisdiction over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which is in desperate need of a thorough evaluation on a host of issues.
With the passage of the 2007 energy bill, Congress doubled the corn-based ethanol mandate despite mounting questions surrounding ethanol’s compatibility with existing engines, its transportation and infrastructure needs, its economic sustainability, and numerous other issues. Then, as now, I argued it was just too early to significantly increase the mandate and that the fuels industry needed more time to adapt and catch up with the many developing challenges facing corn-based ethanol. From everything we have witnessed over the past year, I was right. These mandates allow no room for error in a fuels industry already constrained by tight credit, dwindling capacity, environmental regulation, and volatile market conditions.
This overly aggressive ethanol mandate has also led to consumer backlash in parts of the country. In my home state of Oklahoma, one convenience store chain experienced a 30 percent drop in fuel sales once they began selling fuel blended at E-10 levels. The New York Times reported this growing consumer discontent in Oklahoma City last summer:
OKLAHOMA CITY — “Why Do You Put Alcohol in Your Tank?” demands a large sign outside one gas station here, which reassures drivers that it sells only “100% Gas.”
“No Corn in Our Gas,” advertises another station nearby.
Along the highways of this sprawling prairie city, and in other pockets of the country, a mutiny is growing against energy policies that heavily support and subsidize the blending of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, into gasoline.
Many consumers complain that ethanol, which constitutes as much as 10 percent of the fuel they buy in most states, hurts gas mileage and chokes the engines of their boats and motorcycles.
As we examine issues surrounding the blend wall, I am deeply interested in EPA's implementation of RFS 2. Few could dispute that Congress erred in pushing too much ethanol too fast. In this light, I encourage EPA to reject calls to short-circuit its regulatory obligation and instead fully utilize sound science to determine the feasibility of mid-level ethanol blends.
Despite the drawbacks of today’s corn-based ethanol mandates, I do support a role for both ethanol and other biofuels. The idea that we can grow and produce biofuels all over the country – not just in the Midwest – is something worth pursuing, and that’s why I support research into cellulosic, algae, landfill waste, and other biofuel options.
I have long said that America’s energy supply should be stable, clean, diverse, and affordable. I believe we must utilize all domestic energy resources. Continued development of home grown biofuels translates into energy security and keeps jobs and dollars on American soil and in American pockets.
On that note, I look forward to working with each of you to determine if these new mandates are even achievable and to explore the many potential ramifications of and solutions to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
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