Senators from North Dakota and Minnesota said Wednesday that President Barack Obama's administration should retreat on a proposal to make significant changes to renewable fuel standards and show its support for the biodiesel industry.
Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said that biodiesel production has led to thousands of jobs and remains a clean, safe form of energy. They criticized proposed changes — announced last November — that would reduce by almost 3 billion gallons the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels blended into gasoline in 2014 than the law requires.
"The decision-making was flawed," Heitkamp said.
The three spoke at an event Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, along with biodiesel producers and senators from Indiana, Illinois and Washington.
The Obama administration is considering changes that would significantly reduce the required amount of biodiesel in the United States, establishing a standard of 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel far less than the approximately 1.8 billion gallons produced in 2013. Since the proposed changes were announced, industry groups, farm state lawmakers and others have called on the administration to reconsider the proposed rule change.
Industry groups have said questions about the potential reduction, as well as uncertainty about whether Congress will extend an expired biodiesel tax incentive, have increased uncertainty for producers. Nearly 80 percent of biodiesel producers have reduced production in 2014, according to a survey released by the National Biodiesel Board in conjunction with Wednesday's event.
Several producers, who attended Wednesday's event, said uncertainty was the major reason for reduced production.
Bryan Christjansen, who serves as the general manager of biodiesel refineries in Albert Lea, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa, said the EPA's current proposal "harms local economies and billions of dollars of investments."
"The uncertainty is bad for producers, bad for agriculture and it's especially bad for those of us who took our queues from Congress and the administration," said Terry Goerger, a seed company owner from Mantador, N.D.
Franken said he had personally lobbied President Barack Obama officials to reconsider the rule. He predicted the administration would reconsider.
"These are jobs," he said. "This is good fuel, grown in America."