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Peterson hopeful EPA won’t cut Renewable Fuel Standard by 10 percent

MONTEVIDEO — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is hopeful that the Environmental Protection Agency will not reduce the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard by as much as it has proposed.

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“I think we have made some progress with the administrator,’’ said Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 7th District, after two recent meetings with EPA Director Gina McCarthy.

Peterson spoke to the Chippewa County Corn and Soybean Growers on Wednesday in Montevideo.

The Renewable Fuel Standard established the first mandate for a volume of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline in the U.S.

The EPA has proposed a 10 percent or 1.4 billion-gallon reduction in the nation’s standard for 2014. It has not yet acted on it.

It would cut demand for Minnesota-made ethanol by 110 million gallons, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Peterson said it appears that the EPA proposed the reduction to deal with a problem created by 2007 legislation. It established what he termed unrealistic targets for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels. It required that cellulosic and advanced biofuels make up an ever growing share of the renewable fuels used each year.

Congress has been scaling back the targets in recognition that they can’t be achieved at this time. Peterson said he’s had a steady parade of people in his office over the last 10 years telling him that a large-scale, cellulosic ethanol plant is only six months or a year away, but it’s never happened.

“So I am very skeptical about whether cellulosic ethanol is ever going to be commercially viable, but we’ll see,’’ he said.

In the meantime, Peterson and his Minnesota colleagues have been joined by other Corn Belt lawmakers in urging the director not to harm the market for corn-based ethanol.

“Long and short of it is, she seems to understand they need to leave corn ethanol alone,’’ he told the Chippewa County Corn Growers.

Peterson said he doesn’t expect any new corn ethanol plants to be built in the nation.

“What we’ve got to be able to do is maintain what we’ve got,” he said. “We don’t want to get in a situation where we are putting plants that are built into jeopardy.’’

He predicts the EPA will back off on its reduction, but not completely.

“(We’ll) probably end up with something we can live with,’’ he said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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