US petchems urge repeal of ethanol mandate

06 May 2008 23:32  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US refining and petrochemical industry officials urged Congress on Tuesday to repeal a massive new federal ethanol mandate, citing rising corn and food prices and the lack of infrastructure and markets for biofuels.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), told a House energy committee hearing that “broad national mandates for ethanol use represent poor public policy.”

Speaking before the House subcommittee on energy and air quality, Drevna warned that the newest federal mandate for biofuels production and consumption “will impose significant costs on consumers and the nation."

The House panel heard testimony from Drevna, ethanol producers, environmentalists and other members of Congress about the biofuels mandate contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), passed by Congress and signed by President George Bush in December last year.

The statute established a new renewable fuel standard (RFS) that requires 36bn gal/year of biofuels production and consumption by 2022, including 15bn gal/year of corn-based ethanol. Current US bio-ethanol production is wholly corn based and at approximately 7bn gal/year.

Several members of the subcommittee, both Democrats and Republicans, were critical of the newly approved mandate for 15bn gal/year of corn ethanol, saying it is driving up prices for corn, other food grains, livestock and general food items.

Drevna joined those urging repeal of the EISA biofuels mandate, saying it is “unsustainable, untenable and unworkable." He reminded the panel that NPRA had raised the same objections 20 years earlier when Congress was first considering a biofuels mandate.

He also questioned whether the US transportation fuels market could absorb 36bn gal/year of biofuels, even assuming that much could be produced by 2022.

Drevna said that the 250m cars and light trucks on US highways today can accept a maximum of 10% ethanol in the gasoline fuel mix - known as E-10 fuel. If all of those vehicles were using E-10, they would consume 15bn gal/year of ethanol at most.

“Even if we could produce 36bn gal/year of biofuels, the US fleet of cars and trucks can’t use that much,” he said. “Congress has allowed politics and policy to over-reach technology.”

The subcommittee is expected to hold further hearings on the ethanol mandate, and committee leaders indicated they would support at least some adjustment to the 2007 renewable fuels requirement.

For more on ethanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence

Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels

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By: Joe Kamalick
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