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Ethanol mandate criticized in hearing held by Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford

Federal law requiring renewable fuels in gasoline could force refiners to use more than 10 percent ethanol, even though carmakers say it's not safe
by Chris Casteel Published: June 6, 2013

The Renewable Fuel Standard was approved by Congress in 2005 and then updated in 2007, at a time when domestic demand for gasoline was rising, along with oil imports; lawmakers wanted to encourage the production of alternative fuels.

The last few years, however, have seen a boom in domestic crude and natural gas production, along with falling demand for fuel.

And some critics, including the oil and gas industry, have called for repeal of the standard. Opponents also have blamed the standard for rising costs of feed and food, since so much corn is used to produce ethanol.

Lankford, the subcommittee chairman, did not invite a witness from the renewable fuels industry, though he had a panel of three strong critics of the standard.

In a written statement, Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, called the standard “the single most effective energy policy this country has ever known.”

He called Lankford's hearing biased and said “Big Oil” had created the barrier to using more ethanol in gasoline and was now complaining about it.

“They have had years to prepare and comply with the (Renewable Fuel Standard),” Dinneen said. “Instead, they've hired PR firms and lawyers to maintain their monopoly over the fuel market.”

No definition

The EPA can waive requirements of the fuel standard for a variety of reasons, including severe harm to the economy of a state, region or the United States.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Grundler how the agency would define “severe,” and Grundler said the agency had no established definition.

“Then how are you going to make a decision?” Jordan said.

“We're going to do the best we can based on what the law states,” Grundler said.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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