Renewing the fuel standard

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2021

EPA unveiled its long overdue biofuel blending proposals under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it was a mixed bag for ethanol backers and refiners alike.

EPA called for retroactively lowering the blending targets for 2020 to account for the pandemic-weakened demand, but raising biofuel levels for 2022. EPA also proposed denying 65 requests for blending requirement waivers from small refiners.

The plans amount to a win-some, lose-some for both sides of the bitter battle between two politically powerful industries: farmers producing alternative fuels and blue-collar, unionized refinery workers. Like every president, Biden has committed to supporting the biofuels industry that consumes more than a third of nation’s corn crop. But he’s also been under pressure to alleviate high fuel prices going into winter amid a global energy pinch.

Farm state Democrats were happy the administration finally released its blending requirements after months of delay, but still offered somereserved criticism for lowering 2020 targets. Sens. Amy Klobuchar(Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) issued a joint statement saying the new plan would “delay progress to achieving our climate goals” and that there “is clearly much room for improvement.”

But Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) offered a sharp rebuke for the administration’s cutting the 2020 mandate, saying it was “absolutely a broken promise” by Biden.

The administration acknowledged the challenges for farmers and announced Tuesday the Agriculture Department will offer $700 million to financially assist producers and $100 million for renewable fuels infrastructure. But Ernst said flatly that the USDA funds “will not make up for it.”

The House Biofuels Caucus also knocked the 2020 reduction even as it offered tempered praise for the new proposals Tuesday, saying in a statement that “the 2022 number sets the biofuels industry on the right path moving forward. And the end of the abuse of Small Refinery Exemptions – which provide relief to oil companies at the expense of family farmers – is welcome news.”