WASHINGTON The Obama administration's proposed cuts to U.S. biofuel use targets could undermine the White House's plan to tackle climate change, according to two Democrats on the Senate committee that oversees the renewable fuel mandate.
The Environmental Protection Agency's plan, slashing requirements for blending ethanol and biodiesel into U.S. fuel supplies in 2014, would lead to increased oil use and carbon emissions, Senators Barbara Boxer and Edward Markey said in a letter sent to White House late on Wednesday.
The lawmakers are the latest to weigh in as the White House's Office of Management and Budget considers revisions to the EPA's original proposal on 2014 targets.
"EPA's proposed rule would not only increase carbon pollution, but would also derail our efforts to ... drive the development of fuels that further reduce carbon pollution in the long-term," the lawmakers said.
A study by the Biotechnology Industry Organization cited by Boxer and Markey that found the proposed targets would increase net carbon pollution by 28.2 million metric tons in 2014.
California's Boxer is chairman of the Senate committee on environment and public works, which has oversight authority for the Renewable Fuel Standard. Markey, from Massachusetts, is a committee member and frequent critic of the oil industry.
Producers of renewable fuels say the proposed cuts have already hurt investment in advanced fuels made from crop wastes and led to less output of biodiesel than would otherwise have been the case.
Boxer and Markey also took aim at EPA's reasoning that the cuts were needed due to a shortage of gas-station pumps that can dispense gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, a problem known as the blend wall.
"EPA ... relies on a questionable reading of the statute that would allow the oil industry to escape its obligation under the RFS by simply blocking or limiting the distribution of renewable fuel blends to consumers," the letter said.
The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of ethanol and biodiesel to be mixed into U.S. fuel supplies each year until 2022.
Obama administration officials have said the final targets will likely be higher than the initial proposal, but industry analysts do not expect EPA to restore the requirements fully to the levels set by federal law.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Richard Chang)