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House Committee Hearing to Discuss RFS

Saturday, August 1, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mary Gillen
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On July 23rd, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on Oversight to discuss the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The main focus of the meeting was to discuss the changes that have occurred in our nations energy sector between 2005, when the RFS was first mandated by congress, and today. 

In his opening statement, Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber made his feelings on the issue clear: 

“The RFS was wrong about gas consumption –demand for gasoline is falling. The RFS was wrong about the growth of the renewable fuel industry, particularly in terms of advanced biofuels and cellulosic fuels.  And the RFS was wrong about the impact incorporating renewable fuels would have on the environment. As one of our witnesses today will testify, the corn ethanol produced to meet the RFS makes air quality worse, and has higher life cycle emissions than gasoline. Today, instead of a transportation fuel supply driven by consumer demand, we are stuck with our back to the “blend wall.” Each year, the RFS requires higher volumes of renewable fuel than our transportation fuel supply can sustain. Even with EPA approval to use mid-level ethanol blends like E15 and E85 in select vehicles – both of which have significant problems in terms of performance and emissions – the RFS mandate is unworkable.”

The witnesses testifying at the hearing, experts experienced in their own fields, were on hand to give their own accounts of how the RFS has impacted American businesses. Witnesses included representatives from academia, gas refiners, biofuel developers, and the marine industry. On hand to discuss the impact of the RFS on marine engines was Mr. Tim Reid, Director of Engine Design, Mercury Marine.

Mr. Reid’s testimony included findings of multiple studies on marine engines that demonstrated than gasoline blended with higher than 15% ethanol can cause catastrophic failure. He went on to state: “As an engineer intimately aware of the negative effects of high ethanol fuel, I can say the move towards E15 and possibly even higher blends, to achieve the 36 billion gallon requirement of the RFS is flawed. Rather than continue on a biofuel path that does nothing for lowering emissions and harms our engines, I believe we must freeze the ethanol content of gasoline at its current level of 10% by volume and look towards alternative energy sources that make sense for the engines which must run on them Unless and until Congress acts on the RFS, EPA will continue to implement the deeply flawed RFS without regard to its ramification on engines or consumers. This is a nonsensical path that creates a fuel supply incompatible with engine technology which destroys engines, increases emissions, and puts boat fuel systems in jeopardy.” (Full testimony can be read here.)

Highlights of the other testimony given included that of Mr. Jason Hill, Ph.D and Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, who summarized the question of how the RFS impacts air quality by stating “The Renewable Fuel Standard, because it is currently dominated by corn grain ethanol, is responsible for reduced air quality over much of the U.S., which leads to increased mortality.” (His full testimony can be read here.)