A public meeting room was packed recently as the US Environmental Protection listened to comments about its recent Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) decision. About 300 people packed the room, and the two sides were clearly marked. Some people were biofuel producers or Iowa farmers wearing "Don't Mess with RFS" buttons; others wore "Save my Engine" t-shirts handed out by Energy Citizens, a group funded by American Petroleum Institute.
Nearly 150 stakeholders signed up to testify, 10 times the number who did so at a similar meeting a year ago, according to an EPA official. Speakers covered the gamut of opinions that have been loudly expressed in Washington this year – biofuel industry spokespeople, petroleum refiners, anti-hunger groups and engine manufacturers were all present. Renewable Fuels Association president Robert Dineen thought more than 100 of the speakers were in favor of restoring the original RFA mandate for ethanol production.
One of those speakers, Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad, represents the largest corn-growing state in America. He argued passionately for restoring the 2007 RFA target for producing 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuel blending next year instead of the 15.21 billion level that the EPA announced last month. Cutting back the production will have harmful ramifications on rural America, he said. The EPA sold out America's farmers to oil companies and refiners, the governor said, adding, "The EPA is now caving in to the demands of Big Oil, who has always resisted renewable fuels – from the very beginning."
Big Oil has its own viewpoint, one that says increasing the ethanol blend up to E15 will damage engines and will cost a lot more to produce and deliver to gas stations. Biofuel advocates are eager to have their voices heard during the 60-day EPA comment period. Along with supporting farmers, their arguments tend to focus on cutting foreign-oil dependency, reducing fuel prices and helping the economy.