JANESVILLE — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota voiced heavy opposition Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency's new proposal to temporarily reduce the total amount of ethanol blended into U.S. gasoline in 2014 under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
"They need to hear from all of you guys. They need to hear these are real jobs, and that this standard is wrong for America. It's wrong for our state. And mostly, it's wrong for our energy future," Klobuchar said.
She called for a unified front of corn producers, ethanol producers and lawmakers during a meeting at the Guardian Energy ethanol plant in Janesville. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson and state Sen. Vicki Jensen of Owatonna attended the meeting.
The EPA recently proposed to reduce the total amount of ethanol that the RFS program will require to be mixed into U.S. motor fuel in 2014. The EPA argues that a drop in U.S. gasoline consumption will cause current RFS targets to exceed market needs. The EPA suggests only requiring 13.01 billion gallons in 2014, which is less than last year and below the 14.4 billion gallons originally targeted for this year.
Critics of the EPA's proposal are afraid that a reduction will become permanent and that it would hobble the emerging ethanol market. Critics are also concerned that it will pave the way for eventually reducing the percentage of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline at the pump.
The proposal will be the first reduction of the RFS in the program's history.
Klobuchar said she joined 16 senators in voicing their concerns about the RFS proposal with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
"We had (lawmakers) from all over the country tell her that this went too far," said Klobuchar. "She listened and seemed very open to making some changes."
She said she also joined Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in briefly discussing their concerns about the RFS with President Obama during a separate meeting.
Klobuchar said the emergence of the ethanol market has created serious gains. She said ethanol was one of the major contributors to the U.S. cutting dependence on foreign oil from 60 percent to 40 percent of the total fuel supply over the last five years. She said the RFS proposal would be low enough to stop development in cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels.
She said the EPA proposal is a setback for the ethanol industry, but she is cautiously optimistic the EPA proposal can be stopped. She encouraged people to publicly voice their concerns about the RFS to bring attention to the issue.
Minnesota lawmakers vows to fight
Minnesota Democratic lawmakers Rep. Collin Peterson, Rep. Tim Walz and Franken have joined Klobuchar in opposing the EPA's proposal over the recent weeks.
Walz also recently met with EPA administrator about the RFS proposal. He said he opposes the reduction because the emerging ethanol market was one of the few new ways to generate wealth in rural communities.
"Nobody said this industry is perfect and nobody said corn-based (fuel) was the final solution," Walz said. "We're just asking for a chance to compete. We need to start here to make progress."
He said he was also cautiously optimistic because of the EPA administrator's willingness to hear concerns about the proposal.
Franken also voiced his opposition to the proposal on Saturday in Spring Valley. He said the proposal will raise the cost of gas and would damage rural communities.
The EPA is accepting public comment on its proposal for the RFS through Jan. 28.