White House plans to increase RFS targets — Franken

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014

White House adviser John Podesta indicated yesterday that the administration is planning to raise its targets for both ethanol and advanced biofuels in a final rule setting this year’s renewable fuel standard mandates, according to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Franken and eight other Senate supporters of biodiesel met with Podesta yesterday on Capitol Hill to push the White House to increase the mandate. U.S. EPA last fall proposed to lower the targets for the first time since the 2007 renewable fuel standard (RFS) was put in place, provoking backlash by farmers and biofuel producers.

“He certainly led us to believe there will be higher numbers in each piece of it than was in the preliminary RFS,” Franken told reporters after the meeting in his office.

At the meeting, the senators focused their message on biodiesel, an advanced biofuel made from soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats. In its November proposed rule, EPA said it would require refiners to use 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel this year, a target lower than last year’s actual production of about 1.8 billion gallons.

“We were all making the case that the preliminary RFS rule put out by the EPA is just unacceptable,” Franken said. The group of senators has also met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with the same message.

A few months ago, the National Biodiesel Board said it believed that the administration was leaning toward holding the final target at 1.28 billion gallons. But Franken said that it now appears that the final rule will include a higher biodiesel target.

By how much EPA will raise the biodiesel target is still up in the air, the senator said.

“The indications were that it would be better than the preliminary rule. My feeling was that it may not be as high as we want it,” he said. “We kept making the argument that there is no reason for it to be any lower than what we produced last year on biodiesel.”

It’s already widely expected that EPA will raise its target of 13.01 billion gallons for ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons for total advanced biofuels in the final rule. The proposed total renewable fuel target represents a 16 percent reduction compared to the levels Congress set out when it passed the renewable fuel standard into law.

EPA proposed the lower targets based on limits to the amount of ethanol that can be used in today’s cars and fueling infrastructure and a lack of commercially available cellulosic biofuel. But EPA officials have appeared to back off the cuts in numerous public appearances over the last few months.

Podesta also said that the final rule was “imminent” but didn’t provide a time frame, Franken said.

By statute, the agency was supposed to have finalized the 2014 renewable fuel standard rule by last Nov. 30. Earlier this year, the agency indicated it would have the proposal done by June, but that timeline also slipped. Some stakeholders have blamed the delays on close corn-state elections (E&E Daily, June 9).

Despite the promises that the rule will come out soon, the White House Office of Management and Budget has yet to commence a review of the final rule.