32 senators urge robust biodiesel target ahead of proposed EPA rule

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013

With U.S. EPA on the verge of releasing its proposed renewable fuel requirements for next year, 32 bipartisan senators called yesterday for a robust target for biodiesel.

Led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senators urged the agency to set a target consistent with industry growth this year

Biodiesel is made from soybean oil, animal fats and used cooking grease and can be blended into petroleum-based diesel. Producers are expected to reach a record 1.7 billion gallons of production by the end of 2013.

EPA sets a floor for production each year through the renewable fuel standard, the same vehicle it uses to set the yearly mandate for corn ethanol and other advanced biofuels.

Holding the biodiesel target for next year at this year’s level of 1.28 billion gallons, as EPA indicated it may do in a draft proposal that was leaked last month, would lead to plant shutdowns and job losses, the senators warned.

“Keeping the targets stagnant, rather than gradually allowing the biodiesel industry to grow, could leave 400 million gallons of biodiesel potentially unused — roughly 25 percent,” the senators wrote. “Such a cut could result in nearly every small facility shutting down and permanently ceasing production of biodiesel.”

A study released by the biodiesel industry earlier this week found that about 7,500 people could lose their jobs if production were to drop to 1.28 billion gallons next year. At its record production level this year, the industry supports about 62,000 jobs, the study found (E&ENews PM, Nov. 13).

EPA is expected to release its highly anticipated 2014 targets as early as today. According to the draft proposal, the agency is also considering steep rollbacks in the mandates for conventional ethanol and other advanced biofuels.