CBS Whitewashes Big Oil And Food Companies' Profit Motive For Opposing Renewable Fuel Standard

CBS News reported that a “coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies have been aggressively lobbying” against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “amid concerns that it is doing little to address climate change and is having unintended environmental consequences.” However, major oil and food companies oppose the RFS out of concern for their own economic well-being, not concern for the environment, and some prominent environmental groups support the standard.

CBS Ignores Big Oil And Food Companies' Financial Incentive For Opposing Renewable Fuel Standard Big Oil And Food Companies Are Lobbying Against The RFS “Amid Concerns” About Its Impact On Climate Change And The Environment. In a January 29 article about a new report that is critical of biofuels, suggested that “big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies” oppose the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires oil refiners to blend renewable fuels into the nation's gasoline supply, simply for environmental reasons:

A coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies have been aggressively lobbying the government to reconsider its entire ethanol program -- which requires blending up to 10 percent of ethanol with gasoline -- amid concerns that it is doing little to address climate change and is having unintended environmental consequences. [, 1/29/14]

Oil Companies Actually Oppose Renewable Fuel Standard Out Of Financial Self-Interest

InsideClimate News: Repealing RFS Is “A Top Priority” For Oil Companies Because It Is “Eroding The Oil Industry's De Facto Monopoly On Transportation Fuels.” InsideClimate News reported:

[B]iofuels have supplanted billions of gallons of petroleum in gasoline and diesel, a trend that is cutting overall oil demand and steadily eroding the oil industry's de facto monopoly on transportation fuels.

That has made reining in--or preferably, repealing--the renewable fuel requirements a top priority for oil companies in the last year. [InsideClimate News, 2/10/14]

Associated Press: Oil Companies Have Fought RFS Because It “Cut Into Their Share Of The Gasoline Market.” The Associated Press reported: “The ethanol mandate created an unusual alliance between oil companies, which have seen ethanol cut into their share of the gasoline market, and environmental groups that oppose planting more corn for fuel.” [Associated Press, 11/15/13]

New York Times: Oil Refiners Regard Renewable Fuel Standards As “An Onerous And Unnecessary Business Cost.” The New York Times reported: “Ethanol producers like the renewable fuel standards because they essentially guarantee a market for their product. But refiners -- particularly those without operations to blend the fuel -- regard the standards as an onerous and unnecessary business cost.” [New York Times, 9/14/13]

The Hill: One Reason American Petroleum Institute Wants RFS Repealed Is “Because Of The Cost To Fuel Refiners.” The Hill reported that the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's trade group, “wants the [renewable fuel] standard completely repealed because of the cost to fuel refiners, the damage renewable fuels can cause to engines, the limited availability of the fuels and other factors.” [The Hill3/20/14]

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Oil Industry Has “Mounted An Intense Campaign” Against 15 Percent Ethanol Standard That “Takes A Bit More Of Oil's Market Share.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported:

The oil industry has coexisted with the ethanol industry on the sale of E10, the standard blend of up to 10 percent used in virtually all of the nation's gasoline. But the industry has mounted an intense campaign against E15, the 15 percent blend that takes a bit more of oil's market share.

With U.S. oil production rising, the industry's trade group wants the RFS repealed, and contends the Obama administration's proposed modifications don't go far enough. [Minneapolis Star Tribune11/23/13]

Food Companies Also Oppose RFS To Protect Their Own Financial Interests

Livestock And Poultry Industry Coalition: The RFS Is Impacting Our Producers' “Bottom Line.” In a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, a coalition of livestock and poultry groups wrote:

The undersigned livestock and poultry groups request that, in light of the ongoing pressures that the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) is placing on domestic feed grain supplies and markets as well as the recent discovery by EPA of nearly $9 million worth of registered but fraudulent Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee consider a hearing to examine the continuing impacts the RFS mandate is having on feed supplies and the economy as a whole. The RIN system is only one of the potentially hundreds of areas that highlight the problems with the current rigid RFS compliance system.

As representatives of the livestock and poultry industry, we remain concerned over the continued pressure on grain supplies and the impact this is having on the bottom line and risk management strategies of livestock and poultry producers. [Livestock and Poultry Industry Letter, 12/7/11]

National Pork Producers Council: The Renewable Fuel Standard Is “Causing Severe Economic Harm To Pork Producers.” In a press release, the National Pork Producers Council noted that it submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency in which it argued that “the [ethanol] mandate, coupled with a summer drought that has reduced yields and pushed up prices of feed grains, is causing severe economic harm to pork producers.” [National Pork Producers Council, 10/11/12]

McClatchy: RFS Is “Under Fire” From Food Manufacturers, Who Argue Standard Makes It “More Expensive To Raise Food Animals.” McClatchy reported that the Renewable Fuel Standard “has come under fire from a variety of sources,” adding, “food manufacturers argue the standard drives up corn prices -- making it more expensive to raise food animals that are fed corn and driving up the cost of corn-based food additives.” [McClatchy,11/15/13]

Prominent Environmental Groups Support The Renewable Fuel Standard

Natural Resources Defense Council “Opposes” Efforts To Repeal The Renewable Fuel Standard. In a policy brief on biofuels, the Natural Resources Defense Council stated its opposition to “repeal[ing] the Renewable Fuel Standard or to weaken[ing] its environmental requirements”:

There is mounting pressure to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard or to weaken its environmental requirements. NRDC opposes these changes, which would slow the development and use of biofuels and introduce substantial environmental risk. However, the specifics of the RFS should be reviewed periodically as advanced and cellulosic biofuels develop and as the extent of detrimental impacts of conventional corn ethanol become increasingly understood. [Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2013]

Union Of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program Official: The Renewable Fuel Standard “Works As Is.” In a press release, Dr. Jeremy Martin, senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program, stated: “By exercising its authority to administer the RFS in a flexible and pragmatic manner, the [Environmental Protection Agency] is sending a clear signal to members of Congress and the oil industry who would seek to repeal or revise the RFS: the policy works as is.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 11/15/14]

Environmental Defense Fund: Biodiesel Blends Are Affordable Because Of “Smart Policies” Like The Renewable Fuel Standard. According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, “Many companies produce blends of biodiesel and traditional diesel ... Today, blends are affordable due to smart policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the Renewable Fuel Standard.” [Environmental Defense Fund, August 2013]

NextGen Climate Senior Writer: Renewable Fuel Standard Is An “Important Incentive.” In a blog post, NextGen Climate senior writer Drew Toal criticized then-Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R-IA) for standing against “important incentives like the Renewable Fuel Standard.” [NextGen Climate, 9/3/14]