Renewable fuel groups file brief in oil industry lawsuit

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seven biofuel organizations intervened yesterday in support of U.S. EPA in a petroleum industry-backed legal challenge to a requirement to blend more sustainable biofuels into gasoline, saying the agency should maintain the authority in setting targets.

The Advanced Biofuels Association, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the American Coalition for Ethanol, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, and the Renewable Fuels Association assert that EPA has based its requirements on projections made by the Energy Information Administration, as well as additional information from private companies.

“Precedent makes clear that EPA can adopt standards calculated to spur development, consistent with Congress’s express statutory objectives,” states the intervenors’ brief.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) filed suit in July, claiming EPA is subjecting gasoline blenders to an unreasonably high requirement to mix 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply.

Cellulosic fuels made from fast-growing grasses, agricultural and wood waste, and other plant fiber-based materials have a smaller carbon footprint than conventional ethanol or biodiesel and by definition must emit 60 percent less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which included the most updated version of the federal renewable fuel standard, oil companies were required to blend 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels. Since then, biofuel companies have struggled to expand production to commercial scale, and EPA has revised its annual targets to reflect a much lower number than what was projected five years ago.

API, along with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Association and the Western States Petroleum Association, petitioned EPA to waive the 2011 requirement of 6.6 million gallons for cellulosic fuel. After EPA denied the request, API filed suit.

“EPA continues the bizarre requirement that refiners blend cellulosic ethanol into gasoline, even though no one is producing any for commercial use,” said Bob Greco, director of API’s downstream group, at a press teleconference last month. “Requiring refiners to pay for a fuel that doesn’t exist is regulatory absurdity. It drives up costs and does nothing to increase use of biofuels.”

At least three cellulosic biofuel plants expect to produce on a commercial scale in the next year.