By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) -- With potentially just weeks to go before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could announce a final decision on the renewable fuel standard, U.S. ethanol and agriculture interests Tuesday launched a television and digital advertising campaign to counter months of national advertising by the U.S. oil industry attacking ethanol.
The Fuels America coalition announced what it calls the "Oil Rigged" campaign that includes the purchase of a 30-second television advertisement to air on cable for the next two weeks along with a website, oilrigged.com.
Just last week, Charles T. Drevna, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, told reporters during a news conference that he is concerned EPA will change its mind and actually increase the ethanol volumes in the RFS instead of cutting them as offered in the current proposal.
The proposal has drawn tens of thousands of public comments, mostly from opponents of the EPA proposal to cut RFS volumes in all biofuels based on concerns that available fueling infrastructure would be unable to handle RFS increases in 2014.
"EPA received more than 330,000 comments, most of them in opposition to the proposal," said Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association. "EPA will have to evaluate those. Based on what I've seen, they will definitely have to increase the number.
"Really, all this is about market share. If the president is serious about climate change, then don't roll back the only program that is showing consistent benefits on carbon emissions. I am certainly hopeful they will read the comments they received and will adjust."
Though biofuels industry officials declined to tell reporters during a news conference Tuesday how much the ad campaign cost, Growth Energy Chief Executive Officer Tom Buis said "it is extensive. It's important to remind everyone how oil has rigged the system."
"We certainly hope EPA and Congress will get the message that the system already is rigged, and we certainly shouldn't go out of the way to rig it further. I think we've learned they will stop at nothing to end the RFS. This is about market share and they know that."
The claims made by the oil industry in recent months about ethanol include that it is driving up the price of gasoline at the pump, that it is harmful to vehicles, and that demand for corn for ethanol has led to more row crops planted on grasslands, among other claims.
As part of the new campaign, the ethanol industry lists on the new website the ways it believes the oil industry has "rigged" the system.
Among those, the website says the oil industry spent $885 million on lobbyists and in campaign contributions and made $100 billion in profits last year, "but have refused to pay for infrastructure to sell more renewable fuels in spite of a law requiring them to do so."
The ethanol industry said in a news release that renewable fuels have saved the U.S. as much as "$50 billion in a single year and support over 400,000 jobs across the country."
While possible legal action against EPA hasn't been taken off the table, Dinneen said he is hopeful the agency will stick to the letter of the law when it comes to the RFS.
"The RFS was intended to force marketplace change," he said. "It also has to drive marketplace change so higher blends are available to consumers. This is driving the oil industry to do something they don't want to do. It's not all about the numbers. There's lots of concern about EPA's authority to make the waiver. It will be important that they not introduce a demand component" into the RFS.
"If they do that, they would have turned the act on its head and that will be problematic," Dinneen said.
View the new oilrigged.com website and television spot here, oilrigged.com
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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