Industry: New RFS rule ‘doesn’t make any sense’

Source: Niina Heikkinen, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016

Members of the biofuel industry say they are puzzled by why U.S. EPA’s newly proposed renewable fuel volumes missed levels set by Congress by such a slim margin.

Under the current proposal, the total volume of conventional biofuels would reach 14.8 billion gallons in 2017, just below the 15-billion-gallon target in the renewable fuel standard.

Industry leaders said there is enough biofuel available now to close the 200-million-gallon gap.

“It doesn’t really make any sense; we’ve demonstrated how easily the statutory levels could be met,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Part of the problem is that EPA has underestimated how fuels with higher ethanol blends like E85 and E15 are being used, Dinneen said. In the coming weeks, he said, the association will continue to provide data on the usage of higher ethanol blend fuels.

“I’m hopeful the EPA will increase the final volume,” he said.

Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America Inc., also expressed confusion about EPA’s proposed volumes.

“While I’ve always understood the complexities the EPA needs to work through when determining the amount of biofuel to require based upon its availability, I struggle to understand why the EPA doesn’t require biofuels that are available and the statute requires them,” he said.

The renewable fuel standard allows EPA to set lower volumes for renewable fuel if the agency determines that the industry cannot meet the targets.

But, he said, “it’s hard for me to understand why 0.2 billion gallons more biofuel requirement, or 0.15 percent of the nation’s fuel supply, that would meet the statutory limits is such an apparent heavy lift.”

Enviros: volumes too high

EPA’s new proposed renewable fuel volumes also set cellulosic biofuel volumes at 312 million gallons, biomass-based diesel at 2 billion gallons and advanced biofuel at 4 billion gallons. Total renewable fuel would go up to 18.8 billion gallons, a 700 million gallon increase from 2016.

Other members of the industry say they have focused on increasing access to fuels with higher ethanol blends like E85 and E15.

Over the past year, the National Corn Growers Association has worked with the Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership and invested millions of dollars to address concerns that the industry could not provide higher volumes of ethanol by increasing public and private investment in fuel infrastructure, according to the NCGA.

“Already we see consumers are choosing renewable fuels at higher levels than what these baselines call far,” said NCGA spokeswoman Jennifer Myers.

“Farmers in the ethanol industry are making sure there is enough supply and that we’ve made additional investments in infrastructure to make sure there is access for consumers,” she said. “We know that given a choice, consumers want a fuel source that is renewable, good for the environment and good for our energy security.”

Environmental groups also criticized EPA, saying the proposed volumes are too high.

“When passing the Renewable Fuel Standard, Congress mandated that U.S. EPA adjust the statutory volume requirements downward whenever there are severe environment impacts,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement.

“Yet today, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that the RFS is causing the destruction of grasslands and wetlands; the contamination of lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies; and the decimation of fish and wildlife populations, EPA once again failed to fulfill its legal obligations and instead increased the corn ethanol mandate,” he said.