Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe recommitted himself Wednesday to opposing renewable fuels and the Obama administration's climate policies, while zinging former Vice President Al Gore as the inventor of corn ethanol.
"He invented ethanol, in case you forgot," until environmentalists said it was bad for the environment "and he had to back down," Inhofe quipped on the Senate floor.
Gore is in Washington Wednesday evening to preview the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary called "An Inconvenient Truth." The film, called "An Inconvenient Sequel," opens Aug. 4.
Inhofe, a fervent climate change skeptic, said he was recommitting himself to standing up for crude oil and natural gas production, and will oppose any attempt to increase fuel economy standards or legislation to boost the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply.
He said the ethanol mandate and the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy standards were the products of a time of energy scarcity. But the "bleak future didn't happen" because of increased oil and natural gas from shale, and now the U.S. is "in the position to export our resources," Inhofe said.
Inhofe pointed out that President Trump was in Poland recently "with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin right there" to discuss sending former Soviet satellite countries U.S.-produced natural gas, where "Russia has had a lock on exports." Inhofe added that that should put to rest what critics say about Trump catering to Putin.
The Obama administration's implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard has been another failure, as well as the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. The RFS requires refiners to blend an increasing amount of biofuels in the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies.
Inhofe vowed to block legislation making its way through the Senate to relax restrictions on using 15-percent ethanol fuel blends in the summer. The EPA restricts the use of E15 in the summer because of its higher volatility. It would need a vapor pressure waiver from Congress to allow for its year round use. Most gasoline in the country contains only 10 percent ethanol.
"With all the problems with the RFS, we should not give ... this waiver," he said.
He said higher percentages of ethanol are "less efficient," forcing consumers to pay more because they would have to fill the tank more often than when using predominantly gasoline fuels. That burns more fuel, "resulting in more CO2 emissions" through decreased engine efficiency, Inhofe said. Ethanol also "destroys small engines" in lawn mowers and other equipment, he added.
The ethanol industry countered by saying that kind of talk "comes as no surprise" from Inhofe.
"Senator Inhofe is a longtime opponent of ethanol, so it comes as no surprise that he will claim that ethanol and the renewable fuel standard is harming consumers and the oil industry," said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.
"However, nothing could be further from the truth. The RFS helps break up Big Oil's near-monopoly at the pump, providing consumers with a lower-priced, cleaner, higher octane source of fuel," Dinneen said. "Senator Inhofe's claim that the RFS is harming the oil industry is laughable, as the true motivation is about lost market share. Consumers win when there's a choice at the pump, and the RFS helps ensure consumer choice."