Low-carbon ethanol’s “brightest and sunniest days remain ahead” despite recent judicial setbacks and a growing policy push on electric vehicles, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in keynote remarks today at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo.
Even after two recent disappointing court decisions, “The ethanol industry is still in a stronger position today than we’ve been in for years,” Cooper told the Des Moines audience. “Our outlook remains bright, despite what the headlines and our opponents would like us to believe.”
The potential impacts of the June 25 Supreme Court decision on small refinery exemptions and the July 2 D.C. Circuit Court decision to reverse year-round E15 sales will be more limited than some believe, Cooper said.
The Supreme Court, for example, did not address two aspects of the Tenth Circuit decision: that refiners asking for an exemption must prove that the claimed economic hardship is caused solely by the RFS, and that refineries of all sizes pass through their RIN costs in the wholesale prices of their refined products. “It will be next to impossible for refiners to establish that the RFS itself has harmed them,” Copper said, noting that EPA has indicated its agreement with the Tenth Circuit decision.
Regarding the year-round E15 ruling, Cooper expects E15 will remain available through this summer season as any appeals of the D.C. Circuit decision are considered.
“But what about next summer?” he asked. “And every summer after that? RFA is considering all available options to protect and expand the market for E15. In addition to pursuing a rehearing in the D.C. Circuit or an appeal to the Supreme Court, EPA could explore other potential regulatory workarounds that would allow retailers to continue selling E15 all year long.”
Cooper stressed strong general support for ethanol in Washington, from Congress to the White House to the EPA.
“Renewable fuels continue to enjoy strong support from both political parties and in both chambers of Congress,” he said. “This support is something RFA has been cultivating since our organization was founded 40 years ago. We are so incredibly fortunate to have so many elected officials who truly understand the benefits and advantages of producing and using renewable fuels. They know that the people in this room play a critical role in creating jobs and improving rural livelihoods, diversifying and securing our energy supply, and cleaning up the air we breathe.”
Finally, Cooper noted that ethanol could—and should—play a major role in efforts to greenhouse reduce emissions from the transportation sector, especially if additional state low-carbon fuel standards, or a national LCFS program, are adopted. “Even after accounting for all of energy and emissions associated with every step of the ethanol production process, today’s corn starch ethanol is shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50 percent compared to gasoline,” he said. “Clearly, we are already on our way to ‘net zero’ with ethanol. Proper accounting of soil carbon accumulation in corn fields, using biogas for thermal energy, or adopting carbon capture and sequestration could make corn ethanol carbon neutral—or even carbon negative.”
Cooper concluded: “We’ll continue to experience bursts of rain and the occasional downpour—just like we have over the past few weeks. But after every storm, the clouds part and sun shines through. And I continue to believe our brightest and sunniest days remain ahead of us.”