I grew up in Iowa and witnessed E10, or fuel made with 10 percent ethanol, enter the marketplace. I watched ethanol displace methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in California, the Northeast and then nationwide. And as crude oil prices continued their inexorable march from $20 per barrel to more than $100, I’ve seen E10 become the ubiquitous fuel in our nation. What does each of these things have in common? The oil industry said they couldn’t be done. But they were wrong.
The USDA has announced $14 million payments to advanced biofuel 162 producers in 38 states under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. The program awards payments to eligible producers based on the amount of advanced biofuel produced from renewable sources of biomass, other than corn starch.
The White House has completed a seven-month review of renewable fuel technologies and feedstocks. The review of a rule proposed by U.S. EPA that could allow certain new types of fuel to count under the federal biofuel standard wrapped up Friday, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. EPA, which sent the rule to the office in October, has yet to release the language of the decisions or to indicate when and how it will take any final action on the fuels.
Nearly two months after proposing a rule to lower sulfur levels in gasoline, U.S. EPA is set to publish it in the Federal Register tomorrow. According to the 1,572-page pre-publication notice, the Tier 3 rule would “result in significant reductions in pollutants such as ozone, particulate matter and air toxics across the country and help state and local agencies in their efforts to attain and maintain health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
A bipartisan pair of senators introduced legislation that would effectively bar Brazilian sugar cane ethanol from counting for credit under domestic biofuel targets. The bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) would compel U.S. EPA to lower its overall targets for advanced biofuels whenever it lowers its targets for cellulosic biofuels. Doing so would remove the gap in advanced biofuels that has up to now been filled mostly by sugar cane ethanol imports.
An effort to maintain a tax break for ethanol blended fuel has won state Senate approval. The Iowa Senate on Thursday backed a bill that would extend a tax break for fuel that includes ethanol and gasoline for another year. Currently, ethanol blends are taxed at 20 cents a gallon and pure petroleum is taxed at 22 cents a gallon. Those numbers include a 1 cent environmental fee.
A DuPont executive said a push by critics to undermine the country’s renewable fuels mandate has not deterred the company from investing in the next wave of ethanol production: cellulosic. Jan Koninckx, DuPont’s chief on cellulosic renewable fuel, said the company remains on track to open its 30 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, next year after investing nearly $225 million in the project. While the facility is probably the last one DuPont will develop on its own, Koninckx said the company is in negotiations with “a number” of groups to license its technology and would consider investing in other plants. A deal is not imminent, he said.
As congressional support for overhauling the renewable fuel standard grows, what impact would a revision have on long-term technology investments? During today’s OnPoint, Jan Koninckx, global business director of biofuels at DuPont, explains why he believes reforming the RFS would be on par with repealing the law. He also discusses the imminent commercial viability of cellulosic ethanol.
Environmentalists say a suit filed this week that charges U.S. EPA has not done enough to ensure that Utah is cleaning up fine particulate matter could force the agency to require more stringent action on fine particulates in other states. The lawsuit from WildEarth Guardians filed Wednesday builds on a January decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that said EPA must re-examine how it implements standards for fine particulates, or PM 2.5. Under that decision, the court required EPA to regulate fine particulates differently from more coarse, and less dangerous, particulates.
The outlook for ethanol production growth in the U.S. is dimmed because of the growing debate on whether the country should abandon or revise the biofuels policy, the International Energy Agency said today. Last year’s drought, which damaged corn crops and raised costs for livestock farmers, provided fodder for those who oppose the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS2, which calls for the U.S. to use escalating amounts of biofuels in petroleum. The mandate is also under attack from petroleum industry advocates who say stagnant gasoline demand makes the law unworkable, the IEA said in its Medium-Term Oil Market Report.