NEWS

EPA likely to reconsider ethanol volume in Renewable Fuel Standard, Branstad says

Current proposal would lower ethanol mandate by nearly 3 million gallons per year

Fermenters sit in the foreground with distilation columns rising in the background on the right at Penford Products Co. facility in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Fermenters and distillation columns are part of the process of manufacturing ethanol. The Cedar Rapids facility also manufactures industrial and food grade starches. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Fermenters sit in the foreground with distilation columns rising in the background on the right at Penford Products Co. facility in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Fermenters and distillation columns are part of the process of manufacturing ethanol. The Cedar Rapids facility also manufactures industrial and food grade starches. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Based on feedback from a variety of sources and meetings with officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gov. Terry Branstad is optimistic the federal agency’s plan to scale back renewable fuel volume in the Renewable Fuel Standard will be moderated.

“We’re optimistic we’re going to see some change” in the EPA recommendation, the governor told the Iowa Partnership on Economic Progress this morning.

As much as Branstad would like to see the EPA recommend a continuance of the “original, robust” ethanol volume obligation, he’s not certain the agency will go that far.

He’s met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and testified in Washington at a hearing on recommended changes that he said would be detrimental to the ethanol industry in Iowa and across the Midwest.

The current standard has “helped us reduce our dependency on foreign oil and been a good thing for economic development in Iowa,” Branstad said.

The agency’s RFS proposal would lower the mandate to 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels, with 13.01 billion gallons from conventional ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. Previous RFS requirements passed by Congress called for 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels next year, with 14.4 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and 3.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.

At a hearing in Des Moines, which he hosted in January, Branstad said the EPA proposal to scale back renewable fuel volume obligations would have a direct impact on Iowa’s 41 ethanol plants, Iowa’s 13 biodiesel plants, and the scores of facilities across the Midwest. He estimated the EPA change would cost nearly 45,000 jobs nationally and pose undue financial hardship and stress for thousands of families.

Getting the EPA to reconsider its recommendation won’t be easy, the Republican governor said.

“We know we are up against Big Oil and all their money and all the misinformation and a lot of ill-informed people from the coasts,” Branstad said.

Based on meetings and feedback from others, he believes the EPA “realizes they were basing their recommendation on outdated and inaccurate information,” Branstad said.

“Now, how much progress we’ll see, I don’t know,” he said. “I am somewhat optimistic.”

His optimism is buoyed by the bipartisan effort to get the EPA to reconsider. Not only has the Republican Branstad worked with Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin, and other members of the Iowa congressional delegation, but he has collaborated with Democratic governors and senators across the Midwest.

He’s even received encouragement from an unexpected source, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She brought up the topic when they met at the unveiling of the Norman Borlaug statue at the U.S. Capitol last month.

“Nancy Pelosi, of all people, says ‘Thanks for bringing up ethanol and biodiesel,” Branstad said. “So if Nancy Pelosi from California where Big Oil is king, when I got that kind of feedback from her, that tells me that something could happen that’s better than what’s been recommended by the EPA.”