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Supporters rally behind RFS with new coalition

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/22/2012 2:56 PM

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WASHINGTON — A group of renewable fuel supporters last week announced a campaign to promote and protect the Renewable Fuels Standard.

JIm Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem based in Lakewood, Colo., said it's absolutely critical to stay fast on the renewable fuels standard. One of the great things about the policy is that it is long-term, he said.

Investors, he said, are watching to see if the government waffles on this long-term energy strategy.

Several governors and livestock groups have asked the EPA to grant a waiver of the nation's Renewable Fuels Standard because of the deepening drought and resulting increase in grain prices.

In a Sept. 27 conference call, supporters of renewable fuels explained why the RFS is important to their fledgling enterprises.

Waiving the RFS now will throw a wrench into a rapidly developing industry and stifle innovation in the next generation of biofuels, Imbler said. Any lack of certainty today will cause harm today and into the future.

ZeaChem has raised $65 million in private equity towards it's $390.5 million, 25-million-gallon biorefinery in Oregon. The RFS is critical to the success of this fund drive, Imbler said.

It offers a hand up to innovative ideas and to commercialize new technology.

Construction of the Oregon plant will create 250 construction jobs and 100 long-term jobs.

The biorefinery will be located in the northeast part of the state and will convert agricultural residue and woody biomass into advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals.

Pam Hall, president of the Marion, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce, said a $130 million ethanol plant built by POET in their community helped turn the local economy around.

It created 41 jobs and gave farmers a new, local market for their corn. The plant produces 60 million gallons of ethanol per year from 22 million bushels of corn, Hall said.

In the call, the new coalition, Fuels America, announced a multifaceted campaign to promote the Renewable Fuels Standard. The campaign includes an advertising campaign in Colorado, Ohio, Delaware, Montana and Washington, D.C.. The goal is making every governor, every member of Congress and whoever sits in the White House aware of the benefits of renewable fuels.

"Fuels America is built around one core idea: Renewable fuel is essential to the U.S. economy, our nation's energy security, our rural communities and the environment," said James Greenwood, a former Congressman and now president and chief executive officer of Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The coalition did not release a dollar figure for its advertising buys, but Greenwood said it would not be a short-term battle, rather an effort that will continue for the foreseeable future.

"America's energy security and national security depend on expanding our renewable fuel sector," said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy. "The renewable fuel innovation we have seen across the country since the RFS was created is helping break America's dependence on foreign oil and giving our armed forces new assets on the battlefield."