Shutdown could delay rollout of 2014 renewable fuel targets

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013

The government shutdown could delay the rollout of federal renewable fuel targets for next year.

U.S. EPA has been widely expected to release its proposed targets, which would set levels of conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels that must be blended into gasoline and diesel, sometime in mid-October. If the government remains shut down through next week, the chances are greater that time frame will be pushed back, observers of the industry said.

“With the government shutdown, we’re not sure anymore. We’re hoping to see something in October,” said Bob Greco, director of downstream activities for the American Petroleum Institute, which has petitioned EPA to lower its targets. “The longer the government shutdown goes on, the longer this is going to get delayed, unfortunately.”

The 2007 renewable fuel standard requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons a year of biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply by 2022. By statute, EPA is required to finalize next year’s targets for overall renewable fuel, advanced biofuel and cellulosic biofuel, as well as the target for biodiesel two years ahead, by Nov. 30.

EPA, which has been well behind that schedule in previous years, sent its 2014 targets to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review last month. The office has yet to send them back to the agency.

A delay in the release of the targets could have reverberating effects in Congress, where a group of lawmakers from the House Energy and Commerce Committee are crafting legislation to reform the renewable fuel standard. Their efforts, though, hinge partly on what EPA decides to do with its 2014 numbers.

It’s widely expected that the agency will use its authority to lower the targets below their levels in the statute, but just how far remains to be seen.

Earlier this week, EPA sent a note to stakeholders saying that refiners were still expected to comply with the renewable fuel standard and record their fuel credits via the agency’s electronic tracking system throughout the duration of the shutdown. But the agency said it would have no staff on hand in its Fuels Compliance Center to help companies with troubleshooting.