EPA’s Proposed Enhancements to RFS Program Not a Surprise: RFA

Source: By OPIS • Posted: Friday, October 7, 2016

EPA’s move Monday proposing enhancements to its Renewable Fuel Standards program was “not at all unexpected,” according to a Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) official.

“EPA has been very transparent about this particular proposal,” RFA Vice President Geoff Cooper told OPIS. “They have been talking with stakeholders about it for 18 months. So we weren’t terribly surprised by anything we saw in that proposal.”

RFA and Growth Energy indicated that they will be submitting comments to EPA after reviewing the proposed rule. Growth Energy noted that the proposal “intends to provide regulatory clarification for ethanol blends from 16% to 50% ethanol allowing blends such as E30 and E25 to be sold through blender pumps to flex-fuel vehicles.”

“We see it as EPA sort of clarifying some gray areas that have been sitting out there for the past several years,” Cooper said. “The proposal is really just cleaning up some areas where there were some questions and uncertainty and ambiguity about how various ethanol blends fit in with EPA’s regulatory framework.”

Cooper said the move “was never intended to address E15.”

“It was always about everything else,” he said. “There were questions about where those blends between 16% and 50% fall. Are they gasoline? Are they alternative fuels? That had always been a bit of a gray area.

“There really was no gray area about E15. When it got waiver approval from EPA, it was gasoline. So I think this rule was not expected to really address E15 Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) in any meaningful way, and it doesn’t really. EPA’s goal with this rule is just kind of to clear the air on everything else — E15 through E83.”

Cooper indicated that it is too early to say for sure whether the move will turn out to be overly positive or negative for the biofuels industry.

“I think it is probably somewhere in the middle,” he said. “It is probably net neutral, but time will tell if that is the case or not.”

However, Cooper said that “by clarifying that E16 through E50 are not going to be treated as gasoline and they are going to be treating them as flex fuels, that is definitely a positive step.”

“I don’t think it makes sense to treat E16 thru E50 as gasoline when they are only intended for use in flex-fuel vehicles,” he added. “They shouldn’t be treated the same way as gasoline and held to the same regulations required as gasoline.”

EPA’s proposal to limit the amount of sulfur in ethanol flex-fuel blendstocks such as natural gasoline to 10 parts per million “could have some undesired impact on flex-fuel blending,” according to Cooper.

“We are going to encourage EPA to take a really close look at natural gasoline and what is practical as to some of the parameters that they are putting on it,” he said.