New EPA regs seen spurring Argentinean biodiesel imports 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015

U.S. EPA yesterday issued new requirements for Argentinean biodiesel to qualify under the renewable fuel standard program, a move that the U.S. industry estimates will lead to more Argentinean biodiesel entering the United States.

Argentinean producers will be able to use an alternative tracking program for certifying the soybean oil that’s used as an input in biodiesel production, EPA said. The alternative program involves annual surveys by third parties rather than tracking individual batches of feedstocks.

“This approved plan enhances existing regulatory oversight requirements currently applied to qualifying renewable fuels being imported from Argentina,” EPA said in a notice yesterday.

EPA’s renewable fuel standard regulations require foreign producers to certify that biofuels coming into the United States for use in the RFS program are made from only renewable biomass. Argentina is the first country for which EPA has approved a survey approach, according to the U.S. National Biodiesel Board.

Foreign producers are typically required to map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce biodiesel. Under Argentina’s new program, an independent surveyor, Peterson Control Group, would certify that feedstock supplies are renewable and do not lead to deforestation.

The Argentine Chamber of Biofuels, or CARBIO, will classify “go areas” in Argentina where land was cleared or cultivated prior to 2007. Biodiesel made from feedstocks in those areas would qualify for use in the renewable fuel standard.

The RFS allows EPA to approve alternative renewable tracking programs for countries that import fuel to the United States. The Argentine Chamber of Biofuels asked EPA to approve the new system in 2012.

“The plan satisfies one aspect of the RFS, which is that importers are required to keep records which demonstrate that the feedstocks used to produce the fuel come from qualified land,” EPA said. “CARBIO’s plan includes a robust tracking program that requires an independent third party to conduct an annual survey of the entire biofuel supply chain, from soybean production through intermediate processing, to biodiesel production.”

But the National Biodiesel Board slammed EPA’s decision yesterday, characterizing it as easing the requirements for Argentinean biodiesel to enter the U.S. market and qualify under the renewable fuel standard.

The U.S. industry group argued that the survey system would not be as rigorous as the “map-and-track” system used in other countries and that EPA should have focused on establishing long-delayed annual volume targets under the RFS before dealing with requests by foreign producers to change certification systems.

“The Obama administration has effectively run the U.S. biodiesel industry into a ditch over the past year by failing to establish a functioning renewable fuels policy, and instead of pulling the domestic industry out, it is fast-tracking foreign competition,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board.

The board estimated that the change would lead to exports of up to 600 million gallons of Argentinean biodiesel to the United States.

In 2013, the last full year for which full information is available at the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 130 million gallons of Argentinean biomass-based diesel entered the United States. Argentina’s exports to the United States spiked in late 2013 and early 2014 following the European Union’s imposition of an anti-dumping duty on Argentinean biodiesel.