* Wyden says committee will explore ethanol mandate
* Energy committee to look at gasoline prices this Spring
* Lawmakers introduced bill ending corn ethanol targets
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, April 12 The chairman of the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Friday questioned
whether the United States would be able to meet federal biofuel
targets and pledged to take a closer look at the mandate's link
to gasoline prices.
Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon said the panel plans to spend
"a lot of time" examining the nation's renewable fuel mandate,
especially as it relates to the gasoline costs Americans pay at
"I'm not convinced that the current requirements are
achievable," Wyden said at a policy event sponsored by the law
firm Arent Fox and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
Wyden's comments came as lawmakers spar over the future of
the once widely popular ethanol mandate, which was enacted with
bipartisan support during the George W. Bush administration to
help wean the United States off foreign oil.
The Renewable Fuel Standard requires the increased use of
ethanol and biodiesel in the U.S. fuel supply, hitting 36
billion gallons of biofuels in 2022 from a base of 9 billion
gallons in 2008.
It has helped create of a large ethanol industry, located
mostly in major corn producing states.
But with U.S. oil output booming in recent years and
gasoline demand falling on increasing vehicle efficiency, the
biofuel targets have come under fire from lawmakers who say they
are an unnecessary intervention in the free market and are
pushing up food prices.
The focus on the mandate has intensified in recent weeks
after a spike in the costs of ethanol credits, which refiners
acquire to comply with the mandate.
Refiners, who have called for the elimination of the biofuel
targets, have warned that gasoline prices could climb because
the law currently calls for more ethanol to be used than can be
physically blended into gasoline at the 10 percent level that
the oil industry prefers.
Last month Wyden asked the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency for market data related to the volatility in ethanol
Wyden, a supporter of the ethanol mandate, declined to
elaborate on which aspects of the biofuel targets might not be
attainable or whether the law needs a significant overhaul.
He said he would explore the topic at a hearing he plans to
hold this spring on gasoline prices.
On Wednesday lawmakers in the House of Representatives
introduced a bill, H.R. 1462, that would end the mandate for
corn-based ethanol, which accounts for the vast majority of the
Ethanol supporters argue the mandate has helped to lower
gasoline prices and that the volatility in ethanol credit
markets has been caused by refiners' refusal to support blending
more than 10 percent ethanol into a gallon of gasoline.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Ros Krasny and Bob