A bipartisan group of 60 members of Congress from across the country has signed letters to the White House urging the Obama Administration to follow through with the EPA's proposal to increase the biodiesel volume requirement under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) next year.

"The skyrocketing gas prices we're seeing should remind us all why Congress - with overwhelming bipartisan support - started the RFS in the first place, which was to diversify our energy supplies and limit our vulnerability to just these kinds of price spikes," said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board. "This is strong energy policy and we shouldn't shy away from it now."

At issue is an EPA proposal to increase the biodiesel volume requirement under the RFS to 1.28 billion gallons in 2013. Late last year, the Obama Administration delayed the decision, saying it needs further review, and the EPA could issue a final rule within weeks. Biodiesel has been a highlight of the RFS so far, exceeding its volume requirement last year with record production of 1.1 billion gallons. An Administration decision to rescind the modest increase to 1.28 billion gallons would stunt the industry's growth and likely lead to plant closures and thousands of lost jobs.

The letters were sent Monday. The Senate version can be found here on NBB's website; the House version can be found here.

"This really should be an easy decision for the Obama Administration," Steckel said. "We're talking about modest growth for the only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel that's in commercial-scale production across the country today. It is directly in line with President Obama's call for an 'all of the above' energy approach and his focus on clean, domestic production. And it will create thousands of jobs across the country while improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

"This letter represents the strong bipartisan support that the biodiesel industry has across the country, from Washington state to Missouri to Pennsylvania and North Carolina," Steckel said. "Our industry and the thousands of workers it represents are grateful to those who signed it, and we hope the White House hears their message."

Steckel particularly thanked Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) for leading the effort.

"As prices at the pump continue to rise, the need for biodiesel and other renewable fuels to play a significant role in our national energy policy has never been greater. At the same time, biodiesel production also provides tremendous economic benefits for North Dakota and other states," Conrad said.  "By reducing our dependence on oil from some of the world's most unstable regions, the renewable fuels standard is critical to both our energy and national security. With strong bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, the Administration should follow through on the EPA's proposal to boost the amount of biodiesel produced and used here at home."

The biodiesel industry is seeking the volume increase as it also pushes Congress to reinstate the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive, which expired on Dec. 31.

"Regulation writers in the Administration and tax policy makers in Congress should both act promptly to foster the opportunities in biodiesel for clean-burning, domestically produced energy and job creation," Grassley said.

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as agricultural oils, recycled cooking oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines. It the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's definition as an Advanced Biofuel - meaning the EPA has determined that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent when compared with petroleum diesel. It is produced in nearly every state in the country and last year supported more than 39,000 jobs and $3.8 billion in GDP, according to a recent study conducted by Cardno ENTRIX, an international economics consulting firm. NBB is the U.S. biodiesel trade association.