Approximately 40,000 Americans from all walks of life have submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voicing their opposition to the Agency's proposed cut to the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of comments supporting cuts to the RFS were generated by citizens who were misled by automated robo-calls sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
A review of EPA's docket by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) revealed that tens of thousands of Americans from across the country used unique stories and anecdotes to express their opposition to EPA's proposal to reduce the 2014 RFS volumes. In contrast, API's robo-call initiative resulted in tens of thousands of identical comments, replete with false statements and trite myths.
API's robo-calls used a salacious automated message to tell listeners that more ethanol would cause "higher food prices and damaged car engines." Outrageously, the robo-calls described American farmers as "extremists" and said "[w]e need the EPA to stand up for American families."
The automated call concluded by directing recipients to "press 1 now" to send a pre-written message to EPA supporting the proposed rule. Unfortunately, thousands of Americans were duped by API's underhanded tactics.
"Unlike the cold, impersonal, fear-induced robo-calls used by Big Oil to the level of absurdity, a diverse group of ethanol supporters often took the time to personally write to the EPA in opposition to the blending cuts. Farmers, ethanol producers, and other renewable fuels supporters explained in great, vivid personal detail how the reductions would hurt their businesses, families, and local communities," said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.
"I hope the EPA will distinguish the difference between the mass robo-call responses and the in-depth individual comments written by those most knowledgeable on the impact of the proposed reduction of the RFS. The decision the EPA and White House are about to make will have a lasting effect for years to come."
API's antics are overshadowed by the genuine and heartfelt comments from a wide array of stakeholders about the real impacts of EPA's decision. Bankers, high school and college students, equipment dealers, county commissioners, university presidents, mayors, auto repair shop owners, military veterans, auto dealers, construction workers, engineers, port authority executives, clean air advocates, workers in the automobile, aircraft and farm equipment manufacturing industries, gas station equipment suppliers, seed companies, and college professors joined thousands of farmers and biofuel producers in urging EPA to reverse its proposal. Following are examples of the statements submitted to EPA from a diverse cross-section of Americans.
• James Rentz, president of a construction company in Minnesota, wrote, "We feel that if these new rules were to be implemented it would have a large impact on our business and the employees of this company. Which in turn will have an effect on the local rural community as a whole."
• Carl Glanzman, a professional engineer employed by Larson Engineering in Omaha, Neb., called the proposal "...a significant step back..." that will "...accelerate global warming."
• On behalf of 1,500 military veterans, former Army Captain Michael Breen wrote, "As a veteran (who served in Iraq and Afghanistan) I know that EPA's proposed changes to the RFS would not only undermine our ability to pursue a diverse energy sector, they would also hinder military readiness. When it comes to creating a more secure energy future - and at a time when these clean, homegrown fuels are taking off - we shouldn't be hobbling the industry."
• Fellow Army veteran Donald E. Banwart wrote, "As an Army veteran I cannot comprehend why you would want to increase our dependence on foreign oil when we have the capability and capacity to replace much of it with a renewable resource."
• "The military cost of getting fossil fuels needs to be considered. Some of us know what the cost of war is," wrote Vietnam veteran Paul Appell of Illinois.
• A class of students from West Sioux High School in Iowa wrote, "We feel this would have a large impact on both our community and us." The students ask, "Why would we hurt an improving economy? Why would we take away jobs and reduce jobs when unemployment is high already?"
• The presidents of four Illinois universities, representing more than 100,000 students, wrote, "The drastic cuts set forth in the proposed 2014 RVOs will reverse these successes by stifling investments in research, development, and biofuels production throughout the nation. An opportunity to attract and retain talent in the heartland will be lost, as students and employees seek opportunity to make a difference and earn a living elsewhere. As you formulate your final rule, we ask that you consider the great achievements of the RFS - and the consequences of dismantling it."
• University of Florida senior Alix Kermes wrote, "I join with many to say keep moving FORWARD on an energy policy that is working for our economy, our security, and our planet."
• "I drive a flex-fuel vehicle and I know the importance of not relying on foreign oil. Reducing the RFS pulls the rug out from underneath all the work we have done towards advancing biofuels," wrote Winona State University student Alaina Rollag.
• Keith Snyder, owner of an auto repair business in Arkansas, stated, "I have seen little evidence of damage to engines or other vehicle components in two years of owning a repair shop. I believe this is a myth." He added, "Changing the policy now would put farmers at risk due to the bubble created from past policy. This bubble will burst (already deflating), causing land prices to drop and farmers to face bankruptcy."
• Workers in the automobile, aircraft and farm equipment manufacturing industry also sounded off. "[T]his proposed rule could not only raise prices at the pump and deter investment in biofuels and biofuel infrastructure, but hurt rural economies and jeopardize valuable American manufacturing jobs. We oppose the proposed rule and support growth in this industry which has created much needed jobs and stronger economies across the Midwest. As our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, we must not put in place policies that weaken our manufacturing base and the middle class," wrote Bob King, President of UAW, representing 390,000 active workers and 600,000 retirees.
• Harold Wimmer, National President & CEO of the American Lung Association, wrote "...the RFS has been effective and RIN values have provided the encouragement and incentive for the demonstrated increase in the use of E85 and biodiesel. The growth of E85 and biodiesel can help the nation achieve reductions of ozone precursors, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, toxic and greenhouse gas emissions. The American Lung Association asks the EPA to fully consider the benefits of E85 and biodiesel growth as it accepts public comment on the Renewable Fuels Standard."
• The North American Equipment Dealers Association, which represents dealerships employing approximately 100,000 people collectively, wrote, "We are writing to oppose your proposal to reduce the use of ethanol and biofuels in the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The proposed reduction will have significant impacts on farmers, their income and our dealers and their employees if the proposal is adopted."
• "With this type of proposal, the administration is quitting on the 15-year certainty of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and jeopardizing rural jobs and economies. The majority of our members are located in rural communities, which are thriving due in part to the successful RFS," wrote Matthew C. Larsgaard, representing North Dakota automobile and implement dealers.
• "Please use some common sense and not let the oil companies take over the ethanol industry and repeal the Renewable Energy Fuels Standard or amend the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs). As a banker, I can tell first-hand how the corn based ethanol industry has helped my customers cash flow better, rely less on government subsidies, and improve their properties. I lived through the 1980's as a banker when I first got started and it was a terrible situation. I hope we never go back to that scenario again," wrote Jim Whitmore, president of Okey-Vernon First National Bank, a 114-year old institution in Iowa.
• Fellow banker Kevin Black, president and CEO of Heartland Bank, wrote, "As president and CEO of a community bank in central Iowa, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact that renewable fuels have created for my bank customers and the local economies. The amount of misinformation by those interests wanting to see an end to renewable fuels is extremely troubling and damaging to the consumer and our overall economy."
• "Our community is a rural community which highly relies on the rural economy for our vitality. By making these cuts there will be an economic impact on our area..." wrote Ricard Porter, mayor of Hawarden, Iowa.
• Steve Walk, whose Florida-based company installs and services pumps at retail gas stations, said, "This act has put the future growth of the renewable fuel industry in the hands of the fossil fuel competition, which have in the past and continue to use their control of transportation fuel distribution to limit demand for E85."
• "We are concerned EPA's decision to weaken the RFS could reduce our ability to deploy renewable fuels at a meaningful scale and threaten our ability to meet these goals," wrote Elizabeth Leavitt of the Port of Seattle, which operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
• Robert Wyffels, co-owner of Wyffels Hybrids in Illinois, wrote "President Obama held a town hall meeting at our Wyffels Hybrids production facility in Atkinson, Illinois, in August, 2011. I further believe the proposed 2014 rule for RFS does not support achievement of goals President Obama stated at that event-the diversification of our nation's energy portfolio and the development of advanced biofuels-but rather, the proposed rule would drive investors from biofuels and biofuel infrastructure, putting growth in those sectors at risk."
• "The ethanol industry has been very positive to the entire Midwest. The communities that were once becoming ghost towns are now thriving, and I am seeing young people interested in agricultural again," wrote 30-year-old real estate broker Reed Kuper.
All comments submitted to EPA are available to the public at www.regulations.gov.