Axne: Court rulings against biofuels are ‘based on old science’

By: - July 8, 2021 4:56 pm

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne speaks outside of Grace Preschool in Des Moines on July 8, 2021, to promote a newly expanded child tax credit. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In recent weeks, U.S. courts have dealt two major blows to the biofuels industry, ruling in favor of oil refineries and against year-round sale of E-15 ethanol fuel. U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne said Thursday the rulings were “based on old science” in the law — outdated language that she intends to change.

“These laws were created about four decades ago, in regard to biofuels, and unfortunately, we need to change the language in there because it leaves it open to the wrong interpretations,” Axne told reporters.

The U.S. Supreme Court in late June overturned a 10th Circuit Court decision, voting to allow broader biofuel exemption waivers for oil refineries. Then, last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2019 rule that made it easier to sell E15 year-round.

An aide to Axne said she was “working to identify updates to policy that could counteract the effects of recent federal court rulings.” That effort includes her support of the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act, a bill introduced in February to address oil refinery exemptions, and an upcoming bill to help restore year-round E-15 sales.

“We’ve been so strapped by old science and old laws, that’s really been one of the biggest problems,” Axne said Thursday. “If we can get that changed, it will really open things up.”

Axne, co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, said she also met with EPA Administrator Michael Regan last week about the “importance of supporting biofuels.”

The other five members of Iowa’s congressional delegation, all Republicans, have also spoken in favor of protecting biofuels. U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson wrote to Regan and urged him to maintain his position that biofuel waivers should be granted only to refineries that already had them. U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined other senators in asking President Joe Biden not to “bend to [oil lobby] demands” and lower federal biofuel targets.

Iowa is the nation’s top producer of corn and ethanol, and one of the top producers for soybean-made biodiesel.

“This meets the president’s agenda of a cleaner economy … The fact that we’re not pushing for this is astounding to me,” Axne said Thursday. 

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.