EPA to boost mandated 2019 volumes for renewable fuels

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 3, 2018

EPA said Friday it will boost the amount of certain biofuels required to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, while keeping volumes of conventional ethanol at 15 billion gallons for 2019.

The agency’s final rule on renewable fuel volumes, required every November, calls for 19.92 billion gallons of renewable fuel, slightly more than the 19.88 billion gallons the agency proposed earlier this year. This year’s requirement was 19.29 billion gallons.

Today’s announcement reflects increases in cellulosic and advanced biofuel, signaling officials’ belief that the industry can support larger volumes than EPA projected several months ago.

In the final rule, EPA adjusted the cellulosic total to 418 million gallons, up from 381 million in the proposed rule, and nearly 130 million gallons more than this year (E&E News PM, June 26).

Advanced biofuel volumes would grow to 4.92 billion gallons, up slightly from the 4.88 billion gallons EPA earlier proposed. This year’s total was 4.29 billion gallons.

EPA sets the volumes each year as part of the renewable fuel standard, set in a law enacted in 2005 and updated in 2007.

Ethanol industry groups welcomed the increases and EPA’s decision to meet the law’s mandated level of 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol, made mostly from corn. But they criticized the agency for not addressing RFS waivers that have increasingly been granted to small refiners, cutting down on renewable fuel volumes.

“Hopefully, that means EPA is not intending to issue any small refiner waivers at all in 2019 because it knows there is no rationale or basis for doing so,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, in a statement.

“We urge Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to faithfully and strictly enforce the 15-billion-gallon conventional renewable fuel requirement in 2019, rather than allowing the standard to be eroded through the use of clandestine small refiner waivers as former Administrator Pruitt did,” Cooper added, referring to Scott Pruitt.

The Fueling American Jobs Coalition, representing refiners and other critics of the RFS, said EPA mistakenly assumes demand for ethanol has declined and that higher volume requirements are called for.

The coalition added, “In keeping with annual ritual, EPA has once again released RVO guidelines for the coming year that artificially elevate the requirement for ethanol in motor fuels far above true market demand. Playing out the second part of the ritual, the very same renewable fuels players whose businesses are propped up by a government mandate complain that the requirements should be even higher.”