EPA proposes long-delayed RFS targets 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

U.S. EPA today proposed long-delayed biofuel targets for 2014 and 2015 through the renewable fuel standard program and issued a proposal setting the mandates for 2016.

The numbers released today represent an increase in biofuel levels compared to a proposal that EPA withdrew last year after receiving pushback but do not bring the levels up to the full levels that Congress anticipated.

Congress passed the renewable fuel standard into law in 2007 to require refiners to blend conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels into petroleum-based fuel. Lawmakers wrote into law levels of the fuels that must be used each year through 2022 but gave EPA the authority to waive the volumes under certain circumstances.

For 2014, EPA today proposed to set the mandates for conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels near actual production levels, given that the year has already passed. The proposal would mean refiners have to show that they have blended or purchased fuel credits for 13.25 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and 2.68 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of non-food advanced biofuels.

For this year, EPA proposed to require a total of 16.3 billion gallons of renewable fuels, of which 13.4 gallons would be conventional ethanol and 2.9 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons advanced biofuels.

And in 2016, EPA proposed to require that refiners use 17.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels, of which 14 billion gallons is to be corn-based ethanol while 3.4 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons is to be advanced biofuel. When it passed the RFS, Congress set a cap on corn ethanol at 15 billion gallons with the goal of spurring the development of more advanced biofuels.

Under the proposal, cellulosic biofuel target would gradually rise to 206 million ethanol-equivalent gallons by 2016, and the biodiesel target would rise to 1.9 billion actual gallons by 2017.

Today’s action comes after EPA last fall withdrew a proposed rule that would have scaled back refiners’ 2014 mandates to use both conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels at 16 percent of the levels that Congress wrote into the RFS. The agency pulled back on the proposal after receiving criticism from both biofuels interests — which argued the cuts would undermine the industry — and from the oil industry, which said the reductions did not go far enough (Greenwire, Nov. 21, 2014).

Under the law, EPA was required to issue a final rule setting most 2014 renewable fuel targets by Nov. 30, 2013, and most 2015 targets by Nov. 30 of last year.

Today’s proposal also comes as the Department of Agriculture is poised to announce a $100 million grant program for blender pumps, or gas station pumps that can handle higher blends of ethanol, according to industry sources.