Opening Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer
EPW Hearing on “Oversight of the Renewable Fuel Standard”
February 24, 2016
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) to promote a strong domestic renewable energy industry, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and cut dangerous emissions of carbon pollution that cause climate change. These are exactly the types of goals our country should be focused on, and the RFS is designed to accomplish these while also creating jobs.

A central focus of the program is to encourage the development of fuels with lower carbon emissions, such as cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels, which can turn waste into fuel. By this measure, the program is on track to be successful. By 2022, the RFS program will reduce carbon pollution by 138 million metric tons – which is nearly the annual emissions of 27 million cars.

Some of my colleagues and others testifying today will criticize the RFS. To those who claim that the RFS will raise gasoline and food prices, it is best to start with the facts. First, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown that complying with the RFS does not increase gas prices. Second, the price of corn today is roughly the same as it was in 2007 when the RFS was established. The critics making these claims want to repeal or undermine the RFS, which would only benefit the oil industry and hurt the American people.

The implementation of the RFS has not been perfect, but the law is sound. Congress designed the RFS to be managed in a flexible, common sense way, and we gave the EPA the authority to make certain adjustments when necessary.

As I have said before, legislative changes to the RFS are not needed, and I will do everything in my power to stop any legislation to modify or undermine this landmark law.

We should focus on making sure the law we have on the books works. That is why I am pleased that we are having this oversight hearing today, which gives us the opportunity to examine the implementation of the program.

I believe in greater energy security, giving consumers a choice, and reducing carbon pollution. We have to use every tool at our disposal to address climate change, and the RFS plays an important role. That is why I believe we need the RFS and we need more biofuels in the marketplace.

The U.S. should be a leader and should not fall behind other parts of the world, like Brazil, China, and Europe, which continue to invest heavily in the production of biofuels.

That is why I am concerned that the biofuels targets EPA included in its final rule last year were unnecessarily low. EPA should be setting strong biofuels volume targets that drive investments and innovation and make progress toward cleaner advanced biofuels.

We now have a much better sense of what sustained support of renewable biofuels can do. For example, there are now multiple advanced, cellulosic ethanol refineries in the U.S. that are producing fuel. One of these plants, in Iowa, is the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world and will produce fuel that has 90% less carbon emissions than gasoline.

This is important progress -- but much more could be done. Moving forward, I urge EPA to set robust targets that result in increased investment in both biofuels production and the infrastructure necessary to bring these fuels to market.

Today's hearing will help us better understand the current status of the renewable fuels program and EPA’s plans to keep the program on track going forward.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.