Industry group frowns on EPA vision for advanced biofuels

Source: Marc Heller, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, May 23, 2016

U.S. EPA’s promise to expand the use of advanced biofuels isn’t bringing the agency much applause from the Advanced Biofuels Business Council.

The ABBC, which represents biofuel producers such as DuPont and Enerkem, believes the renewable fuel standard program remains stacked against the industry — no matter what EPA said about the future in this week’s proposal on alternative fuel blends, said Brooke Coleman, the group’s executive director (Greenwire, May 18).

“All those outlooks, they’re essentially window dressing,” Coleman said yesterday. “We don’t spend a lot of time on what they anticipate.”

In a proposed rule on renewable fuel targets for 2017, the agency said it expects to increase levels for advanced biofuels again in 2018 as EPA focuses on cellulosic ethanol and similar alternatives to traditional ethanol. Some analysts and renewable fuel advocates saw that as a reflection of a federal commitment to boosting advanced biofuels.

In its proposal, EPA said it would focus on the emergence of advanced biofuels including cellulosic ethanol as it expands the role of bio-based fuel to combat climate change.

“Many companies are continuing to invest in efforts ranging from research and development, to the construction of commercial-scale facilities to increase the production potential of next generation biofuels,” EPA said.

Coleman said EPA’s system of waivers and waiver credits is steered toward oil and gas companies that would rather see bio-based fuel companies go out of business. Among other objections, he said EPA’s willingness to look at fuel distribution as well as supply and demand goes beyond what Congress intended and plays into the hands of petroleum companies that control the means of distribution in the first place.

“We don’t have a price-driven competitive market,” he said.

In its proposal, EPA called for 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2017, an increase from 3.61 billion gallons this year, to meet the renewable fuel standard.

Overall, EPA would require 18.8 billion gallons of renewables to be mixed into the fuel supply.

An analysis from ClearView Energy Partners LLC took a more bullish approach on advanced biofuels, saying yesterday that it sees evidence of the administration’s emphasis on them.

“This language is consistent with our belief that the Obama Administration is focusing on encouraging advanced biofuels,” the firm said.

With conventional ethanol levels set near caps implied by the RFS law, ClearView said, future growth would have to come from advanced biofuels.

Some advanced biofuel supporters found hope in EPA’s proposal. Targets for advanced biofuels are climbing, and EPA announced the requirements on time, in contrast to missed deadlines for 2014 and 2015, said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, which has clashed with other groups over its support of revamping the RFS.

“I may be the only guy that’s happy, but that’s all great,” said McAdams, who added that EPA is “pushing the boundary” in raising requirements for advanced biofuels, which can be made from a variety of sources such as grass, algae and vegetable oil.

With his organization representing an increasing number of biodiesel producers, McAdams said the ABA was especially encouraged by the growth of available renewable diesel and biodiesel.