House panel holds hearing on Renewable Fuel Standard

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing last week on the Renewable Fuel Standard.
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The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing last week on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the law that results in rising ethanol levels in the fuel supply.

The panel is the committee of jurisdiction for any legislative action regarding ethanol, and the hearing was the first that the committee has held on the topic during this Congress, said Michael Lewan, government relations manager for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

It’s “great that they had the hearing in the first place,” Lewan told Trade Only Today. “This is the committee of jurisdiction for any legislative efforts on the RFS, and it is important that a hearing was held to educate members who might be less familiar with the topic.”

“Many of our champions were in attendance at the hearing, and the questions they asked of the panels were timely and relevant,” Lewan said.

Although the bulk of the hearing did not focus on small-engine concerns, those issues were raised, notably by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who serves on the committee and helped draft H.R. 5180, a bill that seeks to cap the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation supply.

Lewan was encouraged by the many references to the bill during the fact-finding hearings.

Howard Gruenspecht, deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, gave a statistical analysis during his witness testimony reaffirming the demand for ethanol-free gasoline, or E0.

“The ramp-up in the legislated targets through 2022, if confirmed through the EPA rule-making process, would significantly increase the RVO [renewable fuel volume] for each gallon of motor fuel that is sold,” Gruenspecht testified.

That would cause the blend wall, which is the term for the amount of ethanol the fuel supply could handle and remain 10 percent ethanol, to be breached, he said.

His testimony “reaffirms the demand for ethanol-free gasoline and underscores that the RVO goals set out in 2007 are no longer realistic, based on present fuel consumption,” Lewan said.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed in May to raise the amount of ethanol to be blended into the overall fuel supply, albeit at a lower rate than mandated by the RFS, part of the Clean Air Act that was amended in 2007, angering both proponents and opponents of ethanol.

EPA witness Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, said the ethanol-free gasoline numbers in the proposal might not be the same in the final rule.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, and others harped on the EPA’s proposed action to decimate the supply of ethanol-free gasoline and the effect that will have on the recreational marine industry, according to the NMMA.

McCabe also indicated that the EPA will take EIA data into consideration when making the final rule — “which means NMMA and our supporters really need to voice our position clearly and highlight that E0 needs to be based on actual market conditions,” Lewan said.

He encouraged boating industry stakeholders to weigh in before the comment period closes in July.

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