Biofuels leaders set priorities for 2023 and beyond

Source: By Cassidy Walter, Successful Farming • Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2022

The industry is calling for strong RFS volumes.

Today a coalition of leaders from America’s biofuels industry sent a united call to EPA for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2023 and beyond, to advance biofuels’ efforts toward net-zero emissions.

“We think EPA has an enormous opportunity with this rulemaking process to further decarbonize our nation’s transportation fuels,” says Geoff Cooper, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, today during a call going over industry priorities.

The RFS requires the American fuel supply to contain an ever increasing volume of ethanol, biodiesel, and other advanced biofuels. The statute maps out a yearly schedule of increasing volumes through 2022. Starting in 2023, EPA will have broad discretion on volumes.

EPA is expected to release a proposed rule by November 16 for 2023 requirements.

Cooper laid out the industry’s six priorities for the future of the RFS.

  1. Multi-year certainty. Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, says EPA is signaling a shift to rules that set the biofuel blending requirements for multiple years. Industry leaders agreed with this approach because of the market certainty it enables.
  2. “Rational and reasonable growth in all categories beyond 2022 levels.” No specific volumes were proposed on the call but it was made clear the industry wants to see growth beyond the volumes already set for 2022.
  3. Ensure RFS refinery exemptions comply with a U.S. 10th Circuit Court decision on how those exemptions should be handled.
  4. Approve pending pathway requests for biofuel plants producing advanced cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber. Several ethanol plants around the country are producing cellulosic ethanol but not receiving any credit under the RFS program, Cooper says. Cellulosic ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 88% to 108%, according to an Argonne National Lab study.
  5. Reject demand-reducing “schemes.” Under the RFS law, oil companies are obligated to prove the required amount of biofuel is blended. Cooper says oil companies have proposed several “schemes” to EPA to reduce their compliance obligation under the RFS and reduce biofuel demand.
  6. Adopt the GREET lifecycle greenhouse gas reduction model. Biofuels leaders are urging EPA to adopt the Department of Energy’s GREET model for lifecycle greenhouse gas reductions.

“The last time they looked at this was 2009,” Cooper says. “So much has changed in the last 10 to 13 years that we believe this process demands that EPA revisits modeling in lifecycle analysis.”

The GREET model credits ethanol with twice as much greenhouse gas reduction as the outdated model, Skor says.

“For this administration of all administrations, to not update the model, you’re leaving carbon on the table,” she says.

Donnell Rehagen, CEO of Clean Fuels Alliance America, the national trade association representing biodiesel, renewable diesels, and sustainable aviation fuel producers, highlighted that when it comes to the advanced biofuels category of the RFS, they need EPA to be even more aggressive in setting volumes.

“[We are] needing the EPA to recognize that significant growth is coming and it’s coming soon.”

He says in the next 12 months one billion gallons of new renewable diesel capacity is coming online, followed by another billion within the next 18 months.

Outside their asks to EPA, those on the call highlighted biofuels and American agriculture’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how that aligns with President Biden’s administration.

Jon Doggett, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, emphasized the role farmers are playing by capturing carbon in the field and making biofuels even cleaner.

“I think we are on the cusp of a whole new kind of agriculture in this country,” he says.