WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a “Legislative Hearing on S. 517, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.” Below is the opening statement of Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to all the witnesses for being here today to share your perspectives. Before we begin, I’d like to take a few minutes and remind folks how we got here.  

“In 2007, our nation’s energy future did not look good. U.S. consumption of gasoline and diesel was expected to grow exponentially and the supply of oil to feed that growth was expected to be imported from other nations – many of which didn’t like us very much. That’s why in 2007, Congress took several steps to try to change our energy future. In that year, Congress increased the fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and vans for the first time in 32 years. As someone who worked very hard with Senators Feinstein and Stevens, and then-Congressman Markey, to help us find an agreement, I am very proud of this achievement.  Our efforts laid the groundwork for future vehicle efficiency increases by the Obama Administration.

“In 2007, Congress also amended the Clean Air Act to more than double the domestic biofuel mandate to 36 billion gallons by 2022. We included new incentives for advanced fuels that were intended to be better for the environment and were not derived from the food we eat or the food our chickens and cattle eat. Since 2007, we have seen a dramatic change in the energy trend lines – and our energy future looks better than it has in decades. Today, thanks to the groundwork laid in 2007, consumers pay less at the pump, vehicles are cleaner and are more efficient, and our nation is no longer a net importer of oil.

“I continue to believe biofuels, if done correctly, can give us an environmentally friendlier option to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and our dependence on foreign energy production. However, we cannot ignore any unintended consequences – economic or environmental – of increasing our biofuel mandate. 

“The bipartisan bill before us today assumes gasoline with ethanol blends greater than 10 percent contribute to ozone pollution no more or no less than gasoline blends with 10 percent ethanol – and, therefore, the fuels should be treated the same under the Clean Air Act. My first and foremost concern is making sure that assumption is correct. Representing a downwind state with ozone pollution problems, I want to make sure passing this legislation will not increase ozone pollution that would make it more difficult for my state to reach attainment. Along this line, states with extreme ozone concerns – like Delaware – have the authority to regulate the fuels sold within its borders.  I want to make sure this legislation does not inhibit states’ rights to address ozone pollution. 

“My second concern is in regards to advanced biofuels.  I’ve been told that this legislation would increase market access opportunities for higher blends of ethanol by allowing retailers to sell E15 and other higher-ethanol fuel blends year-round. I want to make sure that advanced biofuels – not necessarily traditional corn ethanol – benefit from this increased market share.

“My third, and final, concern is related to the volatility in the market used by refineries to comply with the RFS – known as the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market. In the past four years, the spikes in the RIN market have negatively impacted merchant refineries, like the ones in Delaware City, Delaware and along the East Coast. I’m interested in learning today, what, if any, impacts this bill may have on the RIN market and what more we can do to add transparency and certainty to an opaque market.

“I started with a history lesson.  Now, let me conclude with a little history - history of how this legislation found its way before us today. I understand that this legislation has come before our Committee as part of an agreement among Republican senators with respect to Senate consideration of another bill - one that is not this Committee’s jurisdiction. I want to make it known to my colleagues that I was not privy to that agreement. At this time, I have not committed to any actions with respect to this legislation that may have been discussed among our Republican colleagues, nor have I made any commitments regarding our Committee’s possible consideration of this bill in the future. 

“I am hopeful that this hearing will provide an informative, thoughtful discussion of the legislation before us that will better enable us to meet our responsibilities as members of this committee and of the Senate.”