Comment: EPA is fueling growth in biofuels industry

Source: By Janet McCabe, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week the final biofuel volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biodiesel for 2014-2017. Some have said the final volumes don’t go far enough to support the biofuel industry, while others have said they go too far.

The truth is that EPA’s standards will continue to drive ambitious, achievable growth in biofuel markets, while recognizing the real world development of current advanced biofuel technologies. With final standards in place for the year ahead, biofuel producers and blenders are in a better position to plan and invest — putting the market on stable ground and supporting further growth and innovation in the renewable fuels industry.

The RFS, established by Congress, requires EPA to set annual volume requirements for four categories of biofuels: cellulosic fuel, total renewable fuel, advanced biofuel and biodiesel. The final rule considered more than 670,000 public comments, and relied on the latest, most accurate data available. Because 2014 and most of 2015 are now over, EPA finalized standards for those years that reflect the actual amount of biofuel used in the market; these volumes have grown each year. The standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) provide for even further — and significant — growth over business as usual. We expect that conventional biofuel will reach a volume of 14.5 billion gallons next year, 97 percent of the way toward the cap set by Congress in the 2007 law. Overall, the total renewable standards will grow by more than 1.8 billion gallons from 2014 to 2016 — or 11 percent more biofuel than the market produced in 2014.

And Iowa is leading the way. Iowa’s farmers are growing the next-generation of fuels, and its business leaders are developing the emerging technologies that provide thousands of jobs across the Midwest. Simply put, the biofuel industry is a great American success story. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of biofuels, and the RFS program has been an important driver of that success — cutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and sparking rural economic development.

EPA’s final rule will give companies the stability they need to support their investments.  It will propel the amount of biofuel in the market beyond historic levels, and spur achievable growth — especially in advanced fuels that maximize reductions in the carbon pollution driving climate change.

The final 2016 standard for cellulosic biofuel — the fuel with the lowest carbon emissions — is ambitious, calling for nearly 200 million gallons, or seven times more than the market produced in 2014. And that’s a win for Iowa, where two cellulosic plants have celebrated openings since 2014. With these standards, EPA is supporting these investments.

At the same time, EPA recognizes that technologies for cellulosic fuels have not developed as fast as Congress had anticipated — which can be a challenge with any policy that requires new or emerging technologies.

Even as EPA acknowledges the challenges, we’re continuing to push the market so that new fuels with lower-greenhouse gas emissions get to consumers’ tanks. The standards we finalized this week will support that progress.

We are committed to the RFS, and we’re committed to Congress’ goal of growing the use of low carbon fuels in transportation. Whether or you live in Iowa or not, we can all agree that increasing the use of sustainably produced renewable fuels is key to America’s clean energy future.

Janet McCabe is acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Contact: 202-564-7400