Fight Continues Through Frustrating RFS Uncertainty

As the leaves begin to turn, the biodiesel industry still waits for the 2014 final RFS rule. The National Biodiesel Board continues to fight for an increase in biodiesel volumes while simultaneously urging Congress to reinstate the tax credit.
By Anne Steckel | September 03, 2014

If someone told me in January that we wouldn’t see the final 2014 RFS volumes before the fall, I would have offered them a friendly wager otherwise.

I would have lost. Here we are, nearly two-thirds through the year with the leaves beginning to turn, without a final rule establishing the volume of biodiesel that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

With each passing week, our frustration grows. In talking with the biodiesel community throughout the year, I know the real-world, often painful impact this botched rulemaking has had. Well-paying jobs have been eliminated. Entrepreneurs have lost their businesses. And we’ve lost ground on our national goals for a cleaner transportation sector and a healthier economy free from a dependence on global petroleum markets.

None of this should have happened, and I want to assure you that we are fighting as hard as we possibly can on your behalf, every day, for a positive outcome as we move forward.

The good news is that we believe we have made progress. Thanks to the grassroots advocacy campaign that you helped build, we have made an incredibly strong case to the EPA and the White House that turning away from America’s most successful advanced biofuel is not in the nation’s interests.

From the start, the biodiesel community has been vocal and aggressive. We submitted at least 6,300 comments after the initial rule was proposed in November. We have held countless meetings with administration officials and organized a strong series of letter-writing campaigns, including one in which 120 biodiesel-related companies from across the country called on President Obama to improve the proposal. We engaged influential third-parties to weigh in with letters on our behalf, including state legislators from around the country and local elected officials such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff.

We engineered an aggressive media campaign that saw dozens of op-eds, letters and news stories highlighting the damaging effects of the proposed rule, including many stories from a press conference held by a group of leading senators on Capitol Hill. In fact, we’ve generated more congressional support than we’ve ever had, with nearly 100 lawmakers from across the country calling for a higher biodiesel volume over the past year.

Our efforts culminated recently when senior White House adviser John Podesta met with 10 senators from President Obama’s own party about the biodiesel rule. The senators sharply criticized the administration’s handling of the proposal and urged the administration to change course. By all accounts, the meeting was productive, and Podesta left the senators with the impression that the biodiesel volume should and will go up. That is consistent with signals sent publicly by several senior EPA leaders.

However, we have no assurances that the final rule will include a meaningful increase in volume or, if so, to what extent the volume might rise. We believe there is no reason to retreat from the success that our industry has had in producing a record of more than 1.7 billion gallons last year, and we are continuing to call for that volume in the final rule.

We also continue to urge Congress to reinstate the biodiesel tax incentive that expired this year, and while Congress is highly unpredictable, we are cautiously optimistic that lawmakers will take up tax extensions late in the year, starting with a package passed by the Senate Finance Committee in April that includes the biodiesel incentive.

I want to thank all of you who have participated in our grassroots advocacy, and urge anyone who hasn’t participated to get involved. We are a small industry, and the only way we can make an impression with Congress and the White House is with a strong, unified voice. If you have questions about how to get more involved, please don’t hesitate to call our Washington office at 202-737-8801. We’re always looking for new voices to help us tell the biodiesel story and are here to help connect you with your representatives in Washington.

While I won’t be taking any bets on timing, we do hope and expect that as this issue of Biodiesel Magazine hits newsstands, the EPA’s rulemaking process will be drawing to a close. We will have plenty to discuss once it does … and then 2015 is just around the corner.

Author: Anne Steckel, Vice President of Federal Affairs, National Biodiesel Board

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