The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on Wednesday to consider the EPA’s proposed rule to set 2014 volume requirements under the renewable fuel standard (RFS). The hearing, titled “Oversight Hearing on Domestic Renewable Fuels,” featured testimony from representatives of EPA,  the U.S. Department of Energy, Growth Energy, DuPont, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), Holzfaster Farm, Environmental Working Group (EWG), and the Advanced Ethanol Council.

Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) opened the hearing by speaking about the importance of the RFS in creating energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “Advanced and cellulosic biofuels play a very important role in the RFS, and I personally believe that the federal government should promote their use,” she said.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) discussed the negative impact the RFS has had on the poultry industry.  “Maryland’s large poultry industry has concerns with the RFS and how the diversion of 40 percent of our annual domestic corn crop is being turned into fuel. Corn is essential to raising chickens, because unlike hogs or cattle, there is very little else a farmer can feed to chickens to raise them to market weight. The RFS creates imbalance in the market place for corn. Ethanol producers have a guaranteed market for their corn ethanol, yet poultry has to compete with beef, pork, or meatless meals for a place on the American dinner table,” Senator Cardin said.

 “The folks who wrote the RFS had laudable goals in mind at the time, but I believe it’s really time to admit that the RFS is fundamentally flawed and limps along year after year, mostly benefiting a small sector of our economy committed to government mandates, while also causing real damage and dislocation to others, including the American consumer,” Senator David Vitter (D-LA) said.

While the hearing had a significant representation of pro-RFS testimony, testimonies from both AFPM and EWG delivered powerful stories of the unforeseen, negative consequences of the RFS.

AFPM President Charles Drevna submitted testimony on behalf of his organization requesting that the RFS to be repealed. “The annually increasing amounts of biofuel required to be blended into a declining fuel supply mean the federal biofuel mandate threatens to create fuel supply shortfalls and risk damaging consumer engines. The combination of these factors demonstrates that the RFS is unnecessary, unworkable, and should be repealed,”  according to the AFPM’s official statement.

Senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group Scott Faber was critical of corn ethanol in his testimony, but spoke more favorably about second-generation advanced biofuels. He called for the RFS to be reformed to accelerate the development of drop-in biofuels. “Accelerating development of promising second-generation fuels, especially drop-in fuels, is critical to reducing the carbon intensity of the overall fuel supply, but this is not happening quickly enough to offset the negative environmental impacts of conventional biofuels. To date, the RFS, as currently designed, is not providing sufficiently powerful incentives to develop these second-generation fuels,” Faber said in his official statement.