Ethanol groups don’t like EPA renewable fuel reductions

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ethanol supporters accused U.S. EPA of retreating from renewable energy, after the agency hinted it may seek further reductions in some types of biofuel next year and in 2019.

The National Farmers Union said today that reducing required volumes of biodiesel and advanced biofuel would undermine the renewable fuel standard and conflict with President Trump’s public support for renewable energy.

EPA yesterday requested public comment on renewable fuel data it’s examining, which could result in deeper reductions than the agency initially proposed earlier this year.

A final decision on renewable fuel levels is due by the end of November; the White House Office of Management and Budget reported last week it has completed a review.

While the agency didn’t spell out where it may set fuel volumes, EPA did say the mandated level of biomass-based diesel for 2019 could be set at or above the minimum allowed in law, 1 billion gallons — or less than half the 2.1 billion gallons the agency proposed earlier this year.

In addition, advanced biofuels could fall from 4.24 billion gallons in the earlier proposal to 3.77 billion gallons. Total renewable fuel would also fall to 18.77 billion gallons from 19.24 billion gallons if EPA uses its waiver authority to seek decreases, the agency said.

In posting data about biofuel supply and prices, EPA said it was seeking comments by stakeholders and the public about how it should define “inadequate domestic supply” in relation to renewable fuels — a measure the agency can use to justify a waiver.

“EPA remains concerned about the high cost of advanced biofuels,” the agency said in the notice.

The NFU charged that the agency would break with the president’s goals if it lowered the volumes.

“If this proposal is ultimately implemented, it would be a direct repudiation of President Trump’s promises to support the RFS and continued renewable energy development,” NFU President Roger Johnson said in a news release. “This is especially troubling amidst the deeply depressed farm economy we are facing today.”

EPA’s fresh look at the RFS in some ways mirrors concerns raised recently by fuel and petrochemical companies, which told the agency biodiesel could be in short supply given constraints on imports (Greenwire, Sept. 18).

The Renewable Fuels Association repeated criticism it had leveled at the agency’s earlier proposal to hold back advanced biofuel volumes.

“EPA appears to be adopting API’s argument that ‘domestic supply’ somehow means ‘domestic production,’ when this is clearly not the case,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen in a statement.