Debate over biofuel quota continues on Capitol Hill

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Biofuel producers went before lawmakers Tuesday, asking Congress to force oil refineries to blend at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol each year.

Earlier this month, federal agencies ordered refineries to meet that quota, then reversed course, changing the requirement to a figure based on a three-year average of gallons produced. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler has promised the 15 billion standard will be reached.

Corn farmers like Kelly Nieuwenhuis of Iowa don’t buy it. Nieuwenhuis said the EPA’s flip-flop caused demand and profit to plummet.

“We had to make a hard decision to idle our plant and shut off a key market for hundreds of local farmers,” he told lawmakers on Capitol Hill during a Tuesday hearing.

But some Midwestern lawmakers say more legislation won’t fix the problem.

“The laws already written. The law is already clear,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

Grassley said he’ll work with the Trump administration to make sure it follows through.

But Chet Thompson, the president of American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, the nation’s largest refinery organization, said a stronger mandate would force small refineries out of business.

“Bad for small refineries, bad for their work force and bad for consumers all across the country,” he listed during the hearing.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., agrees. He’s pushing legislation that throws out current rules in favor of a new solution that he argues would help both industries and the environment.

“It’s time Congress pursue this type comprehensive reform,” he said.

Lawmakers say the issue is complex. They hope to find common ground to settle the dispute.

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