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New Legislation Seeks End to Ethanol Mandate

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be part of our nation's fuel supply by 2022. Almost all of this is currently being fulfilled by corn ethanol. In 2011, five billion bushels of the corn supply was used for ethanol - equal to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop. A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives will eliminate the corn-ethanol mandate for fuel production, among other reforms.

A bipartisan group of legislators have introduced a bill to eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), the federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.

Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Peter Welch (D-VT) sponsored the introduction of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reform Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 10.

"The RFS Reform Act will eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent, and require the EPA to set cellulosic biofuels levels at production levels," the bill's sponsors said in a statement. "Renewable fuels play an important role in our energy policy but should compete fairly in the marketplace."

While the RFS is causing food prices to go up, the RFS has not provided relief for consumers at the pump. In fact, the EPA is setting the target for refiners to blend cellulosic biofuels into gasoline higher than the amount of cellulosic biofuels that exists due to the RFS mandate. When these non-existent fuels cannot be blended, refiners are financially penalized, which gets passed on to consumers at the pump.

"It's clear that reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program is needed since the underlying assumptions used to develop the RFS have not been met," said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), one of more than 40 trade organizations to support the bill. "E85 use is not expanding, gasoline consumption peaked in 2007 and continues to fall, and advanced and cellulosic fuels (non-corn ethanol) are not available."

Kiser recently spoke to LandscapeOnline about the dangers of E15, the fuel blend approved by the EPA despite the damaging effects the fuel could have on small-engine products. Though E15 is only available in a handful of fueling stations throughout the country, the EPA's mandate to distribute the fuel more widely has influenced and intensified industry pushback.

"Consumers are growing increasingly wary of ethanol-related issues and evidence in the marketplace that shows product damage and engine failure," Kiser said in the statement. "Adding to the confusion is the fact that 15-percent ethanol is dangerous -- and is in fact illegal -- to use in any non-road engine equipment, such as boats, utility vehicles, chain saws, snow throwers, generators, mowers, motorcycles, snowmobiles, power washers, lawn tractors, trimmers, edgers, pruners, chippers, shredders and blowers and other small engine uses."

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February 15, 2019, 2:11 pm PST

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