Farm group responds to EPA’s RFS targets

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, is concerned by the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to issue final renewable fuel volume targets which are well below their statutory levels.

“This is not good for South Dakota’s family farmers and rural communities,” said Sombke, a fourth generation crop and livestock farmer from Conde. “Since its emergence the ethanol industry has helped breath life back into rural America by increasing commodity prices and through the competitive jobs it has created.”

Sombke adds that the EPA’s Nov. 30, 2015 decision further damages investment in the renewable fuel sector and undermines the Obama Administration’s efforts to combat climate change.

“The EPA is siding with Big Oil – not the American consumer. The RFS propelled the availability of ethanol to the American consumer leading to an increased use of ethanol. This has reduced Greenhouse gas emissions. Big Oil is limiting consumers’ fuel choices,” Sombke said, referencing the “blend wall” excuse manufactured by Big Oil to limit consumer access to higher ethanol blends. “E-30 blends can be used in all vehicles manufactured since 2001. Not only does this further reduce emissions, but significantly lowers the tailpipe emission of Benzene, a harmful carcinogen which is linked to several health issues including certain forms of cancer.”

Sombke’s comments echo those of National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson. Johnson noted that through their finalized target levels, the EPA has disregarded the intent of Congress clearly expressed in the RFS’ statute, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He says the agency has apparently chosen to acknowledge Big Oil’s fictitious “blend wall,” as the reason to waive the volume targets set by Congress.

“Congress’ intent was to require the wealthy transportations fuels industry to adapt and make the infrastructure changes necessary to offer consumers lower-carbon biofuels, allowing the American public to help lower their own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” said Johnson. “If EPA is going to allow Big Oil to dictate volume targets based on existing infrastructure, it clearly demonstrates the stranglehold Big Oil has on U.S. politics.”

Johnson noted that the administration missed a significant opportunity to advance its own efforts to mitigate climate change. As part of the RFS, renewable fuels such as corn ethanol reduce GHG emissions by 34 percent, and new types of biofuels curb GHG emissions by upwards of 80 and 90 percent.

“The RFS has helped family farmers and the nation make tangible steps toward mitigating climate change by making real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Johnson. “By damaging the RFS, the administration is undermining its own climate change agenda in the midst of negotiations on an international climate change agreement.”

Johnson also noted the administration will have some serious work to do in order to overcome mistrust in future engagements with family farmers and rural America.

“Family farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of climate change and have much to offer efforts to mitigate climate change including significant reductions in GHG emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon,” said Johnson. “However, after today’s decision, engaging farmers in conversations on future climate mitigation efforts will be much more difficult.”

–South Dakota Farmers Union