Fla. repeals its renewable fuel standard

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law late Friday a bill removing a requirement that most gasoline sold in the state contain ethanol after months of political wrangling by the biofuels and petroleum industries.

The law repeals the 2008 Renewable Fuel Standard Act, which compelled refiners to blend about 10 percent ethanol or a similar renewable fuel into most gallons of gasoline.

That law “is a state mandate on Florida businesses that is duplicative of the federal renewable fuel standard and inconsistent with the efforts to reduce the regulatory burdens that have helped Florida create over 330,000 new private-sector jobs in the past two years,” Scott said.

Florida’s souring toward renewable fuel comes as one of the first companies to produce second-generation ethanol prepares to ramp up production in a new facility in Vero Beach. INEOS Bio completed construction of the 8-million-gallon-a-year facility last June and began producing electricity there in October; it will eventually convert municipal solid waste to ethanol.

The INEOS facility is only one of two U.S. commercial-scale facilities that will produce ethanol and other biofuels from feedstocks other than corn (Greenwire, Jan. 15). It and other biofuel companies eyeing Florida for renewable fuel production had urged Scott to veto the bill.

At least one company, Florida-based Algenol Biofuels, said it would look elsewhere if Scott signed the RFS repeal. Algenol is seeking a location to build a commercial-scale biofuels plant capable of generating 15 million to 20 million gallons a year.

The legislation, Algenol CEO Paul Woods wrote to Scott in an April letter, makes it “difficult if not impossible to justify building our first commercial facility in Florida.”

The repeal’s supporters said it would create an open market for ethanol, and they argued that the federal renewable fuel standard already sets yearly levels of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s motor fuel supply.

Specialty equipment manufacturers that make lawn mowers, snowmobiles and other similar vehicles also supported the bill. Ethanol can cause corrosion in those vehicles when used in concentrations greater than 10 percent, according to federal testing.

“While the ethanol mandate did not apply to fuel used in collector vehicles, off-road vehicles, motorcycles or small engines, there has been an inability to obtain unblended gasoline for engines that may be damaged by ethanol,” the national Specialty Equipment Market Association said in praise of Scott’s signing of the bill.

Scott said he did not see the legislation as a roadblock to new renewable energy development in the state.

“Although I do not agree with the strategy of imposing a state mandate to support a specific technology or industry sector, I will continue to support efforts that will bring energy-related innovation, competition, investment and jobs to Florida,” he said. “Many energy and fuel-producing companies have already invested in Florida. They offer high-tech, high-wage jobs to Floridians, and we welcome more of them to compete in our state.”

Earlier this spring, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) signed into law a state bill that prohibits anyone from selling gasoline containing corn ethanol at levels greater than 10 percent if two other New England states enact similar laws. The act targets E15, or gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, which U.S. EPA has approved for use in vehicles from models years 2001 and newer.

Ethanol is facing similar pressure on the national level. Several congressional opponents have filed legislation targeting all facets of the renewable fuel standard, and the nation’s top oil lobbying shop, the American Petroleum Institute, has launched a massive public relations campaign to eliminate the standard (Greenwire, Jan. 15).