Congressional Leadership Fails Key Test on Energy Bill Amendments

New House Speaker Paul Ryan
New House Speaker Paul Ryan

The new House Speaker, Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), faced a key public policy test early in the term of the new Speaker. Ryan had a great opportunity to prove himself more conservative than the previous Speaker by insuring a full House vote on the three amendments to the energy bill to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule, including the amendment proposed by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) that would repeal the draconian RFS rule. This key free market reform to our nation’s energy policy would clearly show the GOP majority in Congress is working for the kinds of conservative, free market public policy that voters sent them to Washington to promote.

But under the leadership of Speaker Ryan and Rep. Sessions, the amendments were essentially killed in the House Rules Committee consideration of the rules of debate on the energy bill that will soon go to the full House. A budget point of order was cited as reason for not including the amendments in the debate over the energy bill, because the Congressional budget office cited revenue declines as a result of increased fuel efficiency caused by lowering the blend of corn ethanol in gasoline, and declining demand for corn leading to highest costs of farm subsidy programs. Conceding that lowering ethanol usage in the gasoline blends would make the fuel more efficient suggests that the ethanol blends are less effective than pure gasoline as a motor fuel.

The RFS rule currently written by the EPA would strongly increase the percentages of corn ethanol and other bio-fuels required, dramatically raising the costs to Americans and business of using gasoline and other fuels.

Under the rule,” E&E News reported, “U.S. fuel blenders will be required to mix 16.93 billion gallons of bio-fuels into fossil fuels in 2015 and 18.11 billion gallons in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the amounts in the proposed rule issued in May but less than what Congress intended when it expanded the RFS program eight years ago.”

Corn ethanol will comprise about 14.05 billion gallons in 2015 and 14.5 billion gallons in 2016 under the RFS rule. This requirement will cause ethanol to exceed the 10 percent blend wall in 2016, where the overall demand for gasoline is expected to top 140 billion gallons.

E&E News reports “EPA’s final rule sets the level of required volumes of bio-fuel for 2014, 2015 and 2016, with an additional 2017 requirement for bio-diesel only. The overall program, created in 2005 and expanded with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, seeks to boost annual bio-fuel production to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022.” Boosting bio-fuels may make politicians feel good, until they see the ramifications of a higher cost for energy and fuel that heavily impacts the middle class and poor.

Speaker Ryan and other in the House leadership had a chance to reform or repeal the RFS rule and promote a free market in energy that would benefit all Americans. The most economically beneficial reform of RFS is the repeal of RFS as proposed by Rep. DeSantis that would lead to the sale of just one blend of gasoline, pure gasoline like that we used to fuel our cars and trucks with. Eliminating all the various blends required in different parts of the country by the RFS rule would substantially lower energy costs for all Americans and businesses. By using the budget point of an order as excuse, the GOP leadership in the Congress once again failed to deliver to the American people what they voted for on Election Day.


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