InterviewUS Renewable Fuel Standard works for biotech industry: BIO

17 June 2013 04:59  [Source: ICIS news]

US Renewable Fuel Standard works for biotech industry: BIOBy Tracy Dang

MONTREAL, Canada (ICIS)--The US biotechnology industry is optimistic that a review of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) will show that the mandate “is working” as government-issued white papers are showing “more balanced” perspective on the rule’s assessment, senior officials from a trade group said on Sunday.

The RFS was created in 2005 and expanded in 2007 to establish a fuel volume mandate to boost ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable resources in the US.

Earlier this year, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee began reviewing the rule through a series of white papers on blend wall and fuel compatibility issues, agricultural sector impacts, greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts, as well as energy policy.

“We feel like we’ve got a really good case to make across the spectrum of topics they’ve requested feedback on – from the economic impact to the environmental benefits to the challenges of implementing the programme,” said Matthew Carr, managing director of industrial and environmental issues at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“We hope that the next stage in consideration by the House is that they decide to move to hearings and that they will give the industry an equal voice in those proceedings so that our story can be told,” Carr said during an interview at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference.

“That’s been our mission through the Fuels America campaign we help found – we feel that if our side of the story is told, public opinion will fall on our side.”

BIO director of communications Paul Winters said the earlier documents seemed to be more anti-biofuels and anti-ethanol because there was a lot of input from the oil industry, particularly the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).

However, the negative perception is beginning to change as more groups and giving their input in support of the RFS.

“I think the reason it’s been slow is because [the committee] did get so much input, and there was a lot positive things that they had not been hearing for a while,” Winters said. “They have only been hearing about the negatives and had not hearing positives. So, I think that’s given a little pause to everyone.”

BIO has commented on each of the white papers.

Critics have said that E15, a gasoline blend of 15% ethanol, may harm certain auto motors and can void vehicle warranties. In addition, they have concerns about the blend wall, or the theory that Americans using less gasoline is requiring that higher ethanol content than the allowable 10% is blended in order to meet the RFS mandate.

“The issues with the blend wall were thrown up by the oil industry essentially to protect their market share,” Winters said.

“The EPA, right around the time of this white paper, had introduced the Tier 3 rules and had made several proposals, one of which was to change the reference gasoline for testing E10 or E15, and that would essentially knock down the blend wall because it would give everyone the flexibility to blend at higher percentages and design cars around that as well,” he added.

In response to biofuels and ethanol driving up food prices, BIO said those were determined by oil prices more than anything else.

“Even with the drought last year, EPA noted that demand for biofuels would have been exactly the same, even without the RFS, because of the high prices in oil,” Winters said.

He added that biofuels are required by the RFS to demonstrate positive environmental performance in reducing greenhouse gas and that displacing oil and many of the aromatics in gasoline provide benefits for the environment.

The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference runs through Wednesday.

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By: Tracy Dang
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