Providing flexibility to fuel retailers will be key to the continued growth in availability of higher level ethanol blends like E15 and other renewable fuels, according to Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen in written testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and Economy.

(For more, see: Domestic Fuels Act gathering steam)

Dinneen is testifying in support of the Domestic Fuels Protection Act, a bill designed to help ease the regulatory burden on fuel retailers seeking to offer consumers a wider range of fuel choices beyond petroleum-based fuels.

“[T]he current regulatory structure provides no pathway to certify existing equipment for anything other than fossil fuels, even when test data demonstrates its safety,” Dinneen testified.  “The Domestic Fuels Protection Act allows EPA to create such a process, thereby providing new fuels access to the marketplace without having to expend time and resources on new infrastructure unnecessarily.”

The Domestic Fuels Protection Act rests on a simple premise: if a new fuel has been approved by EPA, if equipment used by retailers to store and dispense a new fuel meets specifications, and if retailers properly inform customers regarding the approved uses of a new fuel, then retailers, fuel producers, and other stakeholders should not have to be concerned about defending meritless lawsuits.  The legislation is narrowly tailored to achieve this goal.  It addresses only liability protection and does not alter the Renewable Fuel Standard or otherwise impact fuels that have been sanctioned by EPA as legal to offer for sale.  Importantly, the legislation is not a prerequisite to the introduction into commerce of E15, which was approved by EPA after rigorous testing by the U.S. Department of Energy and others and which was recently registered as a legal fuel under the Clean Air Act.

Expanding market access for ethanol and other renewable fuels is critical to both expanding America’s renewable fuel industry and achieving the goals of the RFS.  “I can say without hyperbole or reservation that the RFS has been the most successful energy policy this nation has ever implemented.  It should be vigorously defended and maintained, and allowed to reach its full potential of 36 billion gallons of clean burning, renewable fuel,” said Dinneen.

Dinneen continued, “The RFS is entering a critical period, however.  The volumes of renewable fuel refiners are required to meet can no longer be met by just 10% ethanol.  Greater volumes of ethanol and a greater diversity of biofuels and feedstocks will be necessary to meet the increasing volumes required by the RFS.  Critically, these fuels will be attempting to enter the marketplace amidst a complicated regulatory structure that favors incumbent technologies and discourages market access.  Gasoline marketers deserve the certainty that they will not be penalized for utilizing a new fuel or fuel blend that has been approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

Earlier this week, the RFA released poll results showing that 61% of American adults support the RFS and 58% of Americans would use more domestically-produced renewable fuel when available. 

The Domestic Fuels Protection Act was introduced in the House by Representatives John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).  A Senate counterpart, the Domestic Fuels Act, has also been introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). 

Dinneen’s full testimony is available here.