While draft legislation recently released by Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Bill Flores (R-Texas) represents “an important first step in the debate about future fuels policy and the role of high octane fuels,” the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) cannot support the proposal because it “does not provide the long-term certainty and growth path” that America’s ethanol producers need.

That was the message delivered by RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper in testimony during today’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment hearing on the Shimkus/Flores proposal, named “The 21st Century Transportation Fuels Act.” While the proposal would establish a higher octane fuel requirement (95 RON) in 2023, the draft also would sunset the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) conventional biofuel requirements after 2022.

By eliminating the RFS for conventional biofuels, “…the draft bill would destabilize the considerable progress our nation has made toward greater energy security, economic vitality, and environmental health,” Cooper testified. “We simply cannot support eliminating the RFS program, as the draft envisions, without a much stronger signal to the market that ethanol’s role in our fuel supply will continue to grow.”

While any move toward higher octane would seem on the surface to benefit ethanol—the lowest-cost and cleanest source of octane on the market—recent analysis shows that refiners could meet the demand for 95 RON gasoline without using more ethanol. “Even though ethanol is far superior to other octane boosters in terms of cost, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, health effects, and other factors, a 95 RON standard—when paired with elimination of the RFS conventional renewable fuel requirements—would not result in increased market opportunities for ethanol,” Cooper said. “RFA strongly believes a high octane fuel standard can work in concert with—not in conflict with—the RFS.”

“While a good conversation starter, this discussion draft does not provide the long-term certainty and growth path that America’s renewable fuel producers, farmers, automakers, and consumers need,” Cooper testified. “With proper oversight and implementation, the RFS can work in tandem with a high- octane standard to continue to drive innovation, support rural economies, and provide cleaner and cheaper fuel choices at the pump well beyond 2022,” he added.

A copy of Cooper’s prepared testimony is here.