A bipartisan Congress first voted to approve the RFS. President Bush signed it into law. Today that bipartisan support continues.

On September 30, 2015, former Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.) debuted Americans for Energy Security & Innovation (AESI), a new group dedicated to broadening support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). AESI matters because it adds conservative support to the RFS, emphasizing to policy makers on both sides of the aisle the RFS’ importance to the United States.

Talent is wasting no time. AESI launched this web ad calling out President Barack Obama for shifting positions on biofuels. The video notes that Obama referred to the RFS as an important part of his energy strategy before rolling back mandates last spring.

As you know, the RFS was signed into law ten years ago, obligating oil companies to blend increasing amounts of renewable fuel. The policy ensured that the oil companies who control fuel distribution could not block the growth of lower carbon alternatives to gasoline. It is the only US climate law on the books.

And yet, the Obama Administration wants to slow the program down. The Administration is proposing to adopt an approach championed by the oil industry, which would allow yearly RFS targets to be waived if oil companies refuse to distribute renewable fuel. The Administration’s proposal is serious enough that two dozen top executives in the advanced biofuels industry signed a letter to the President criticizing the plan against the backdrop of the Paris climate negotiations.

Mr. Obama’s new Clean Power Plan, for example, predicts a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to removing 166 million cars from the road The RFS however has already removed the equivalent of more than 124 million cars from the road and if deployed as designed will reduce emissions by far more than that. Replacing a proven, working climate policy with an untested one gains the world no ground.

Talent was one of the “prime movers” behind the passage of the RFS in 2005. “Senator Talent spearheaded a great victory for the ethanol and biodiesel industries,” Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said that year.

The AESI is not alone in its bipartisan RFS defense:

  • Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) introduced an amendment to repeal the corn ethanol portion of the RFS. The effort was soundly defeated – 15 to 7. Despite numerous threats over the years, this was the first vote in Congress on an RFS repeal or reform effort. The result was a big, bipartisan win for biofuels.
  • Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad (R) and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (R) defended the RFS at the S. EPA hearing in June, where more than 250 people were scheduled to testify. The governors emphasized the direct link between the RFS and stronger rural economies.
  • In July, 36 U.S. senators from across the country wrote a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and other administrative officials emphasizing the domestic biodiesel industry’s production capacity and its ability to increase production.
  • More recently, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (D) voiced her support of the RFS while on her campaign trail. She seeks to strengthen the RFS as a part of her rural development policy platform and has been a notable proponent of biofuels and ethanol. In August, Clinton said she wanted to expand the share of renewable fuels within the nation’s energy supply while simultaneously revitalizing rural America.
  • Republican presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee (R) have also issued statements supporting the RFS. While some have suggested phasing it out over time, most generally tend to consider it a successful policy that should continue to receive federal support. “Four years ago I supported the RFS. I support it now. It’s part of energy mix,” said Senator Rick Santorum (R) in October.

“The RFS has been the only consistent and effective energy policy that Washington has produced,” said Talent, whose conservative background evidences continued bipartisan support for the RFS. Dating from the year it passed, through 2007 and 2008 to today, Republicans and Democrats alike have voted to support the RFS. Even 62% of the general public favors a strong RFS, according to an RFA study earlier this year. It’s no wonder that the RFS has strong bipartisan support.

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Ailish Kavanagh

I’m a creative specialist who writes about Bioenergy for Novozymes. As well as a writer, I’m a reader and – very occasionally - a doer.

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