Industries use airwaves to attack low-carbon fuel mandate

By Darren Goode

A broad coalition of oil, trucking, airline, manufacturing and other companies Tuesday will roll out a two-week advertising campaign accusing senators of hurting consumers and jobs if they lower the greenhouse gas content of fuels.

“Our families are struggling, but unfortunately it’s business as usual in Washington,” according to a 60-second radio ad sponsored by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) and running in four Midwestern states.

The “latest bright idea” from Congress is a low-carbon fuel standard, according to the ad. Auto companies and the autoworkers union are pushing such a standard.

CEA’s radio campaign cites unnamed studies that claim a standard would cost consumers up to $2,000 annually and increase gas prices at the pump by up to 170 percent.

The coalition funded a recent study by Charles River Associates that contended a low-carbon fuels standard starting in 2015 and reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 10 percent after that would increase transportation fuels to consumers by 90 to 170 percent by 2025.

A low-carbon standard would also “further damage our ailing economy” and kill up to 1.1 million jobs and “10s of billions of dollars” in economic investment in the Midwest, according to the coalition’s ad. “Low-carbon fuel standards may sound like a good idea, but as usual Congress wants you to pay the price,” according to the ad.

Both the radio ads and accompanying cable TV ads will run for two weeks starting Tuesday in Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio at a price tag of about $1 million. The TV ads were still being finalized late Monday.

Each of the four radio ads gives out the number for the U.S. Capitol switchboard and asks listeners to call the senators – both Democratic and Republican – in that particular state.

The low-carbon fuel standard idea has received some bipartisan backing. Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are looking to include it in an evolving three-tier package they are working on to limit the impact to their state’s auto industry of plans curbing transportation sector emissions. The package would be offered as part of a broader Senate climate and energy strategy expected to hit the Senate floor as early as next week. Major auto companies and the United Auto Workers are helping Stabenow and Levin draft their ideas.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have also espoused the idea of a low-carbon fuel standard. President Obama did as well as a U.S. senator and on the 2008 presidential campaign trail.

California has adopted a standard and 11 East Coast states have pledged to model a regional plan from it.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), American Trucking Associations (ATA), and other industry groups have filed a lawsuit against California’s plan, alleging the state’s standard is an unconstiutional attempt to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. Both NPRA and ATA are members of CEA.

The ethanol industry has also filed suit against the California standard – which requires fuel providers to cut the carbon intensity of fuels sold in the state 10 percent by 2020.

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