Iowa politicians from both parties may disagree on hundreds of policy issues, but they have long been united in supporting the biofuels industry. Iowa’s elected officials expressed outrage in late 2013, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard, a “federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.” Governor Terry Branstad and then-Representative Bruce Braley were among those who urged the EPA not to reduce the amount of ethanol required. Political pressure eventually delayed the EPA’s action on adjusting the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Yesterday the EPA released the final version of the RFS. More details, background and supporting documents on the rule are available here. The final standards for 2014 and 2015 “reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) […] represent significant growth over historical levels.” They rule also sets higher goals than those the EPA proposed earlier this year. Christopher Doering reported for the Des Moines Register,
Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in an interview the ethanol quotas follow Congress’ intent to promote the increased use of renewable fuels. She said slower-than-expected growth in the nascent cellulosic ethanol industry and lower gasoline demand made the 2007 figures from Congress no longer achievable.
These numbers will “really drive the volumes significantly beyond where they have been in the last couple of years, which is what Congress intended, and that’s substantial growth, achievable growth,” McCabe said. “The industry is going to really have to push to achieve these, but it provides the signal they’ve been asking for. I think when people look at the numbers they will see that this really is very good for the industry.”
Nevertheless, Iowa politicians expressed strong disapproval yesterday of the EPA’s final rule. I’ve enclosed below statements from the governor’s office and several members of Congress and will update this post as needed.
Once you venture outside political circles, you can find Iowa voices questioning the consensus about federal policy on biofuels. At a January 2014 hearing organized by Branstad, Francis Thicke was the only speaker “to talk about the ‘other side’ of ethanol,” arguing that it is “disingenuous to frame the debate on the Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) as a struggle between farmers and Big Oil.” Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad also defended the EPA’s planned update to the RFS. Whereas elected officials tend to cite Renewable Fuels Association statistics as gospel, Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson has questioned industry claims regarding biofuels production and job creation.