EPA aiming to finalize 2013 renewable fuel targets this summer

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013

U.S. EPA plans to finalize its 2013 renewable fuel standard levels by the end of this summer, a senior agency official said yesterday.

The agency is about seven months behind schedule in setting final targets under the standard for conventional ethanol and advanced biofuel production. It released proposed targets in late January and has since been collecting public comments and meeting with stakeholders.

Christopher Grundler, EPA’s director of transportation and air quality, said the agency’s priority is to have the final numbers in place within the next couple of months. Grundler said the agency was still sorting through the 93 comments received on the 2013 proposal.

“We’re working very hard to do that, and we will get that finalized by this summer,” Grundler told lawmakers at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing yesterday.

This year, the agency has proposed requiring refiners to blend 2.75 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of advanced biofuel, or next-generation fuels not made from cornstarch, into the nation’s motor fuel supply (E&ENews PM, Jan. 31).

Of that figure, 1.28 billion gallons is required to be biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats. The agency also proposed to set an aggressive target of 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, or fuels made from plant-based materials like switch grass, agricultural residue and municipal solid waste

By statute, refiners must also blend 13.8 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into the fuel supply or purchase an equivalent amount of renewable fuel credits.

Under the renewable fuel standard, which Congress last revised in 2007, EPA is required to make available the next year’s biofuels targets, as well as the biodiesel targets for two years in the future, by Nov. 30 of each year.

The agency hopes to release proposed 2014 numbers “shortly after” finalizing this year’s, Grundler said, and is currently weighing whether to use its authority to lower the overall targets next year.

Refiners and their lawmakers have criticized the agency for its delays in issuing the targets.

“That creates uncertainty in the marketplace,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the renewable fuel standard in its entirety. “You’re about a half-year late already. … Maybe you’re overwhelmed. Another argument for repealing the RFS is you’re too overwhelmed to do the things you’re currently tasked with all these other things coming down.”