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EPA Proposes Increase in Renewable Fuel Levels

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The Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal Wednesday to increase renewable fuel volume requirements across all types of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. While agriculture and farm groups applaud the increase, industry groups say the increase is not enough. The proposal would increase total renewable fuel volumes by nearly 700 million gallons between 2016 and 2017. The conventional biofuel amount of 14.8 billion gallons is an increase from 14.5 billion gallons in 2016. The EPA says the increase will achieve 99% of the Congressional target of 15 billion gallons. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor argues the ethanol industry is “fully capable” of meeting the 15 billion gallon target set by Congress. For biodiesel, the EPA proposal would establish a 2.1 billion gallon Biomass-based Diesel requirement in 2018, up from the 2.0 billion gallon requirement for 2017. However, Ann Steckel of the National Biodiesel Board says the industry has “plenty of feedstock and production capacity to exceed 2.5 billion gallons today, and can certainly do so in 2018.” The EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days.

Ethanol and farm groups praised the change in direction of the EPA but maintain more still needs to be done.  “EPA has moved in a better direction, but we are disappointed that they set the ethanol number below statute. The Renewable Fuel Standard is working for America. It has made our air cleaner. It has spurred investment in rural communities and created high-tech jobs. It has given drivers more choices at the gas pump. And it has reduced our dependency on foreign oil. Any reduction in the statutory amount takes America backward – destabilizing our environment, our economy, and our energy security,“ said Maryland farmer Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association.  Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said, “A top excuse EPA has used to rein-in the RFS is data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) which indicate falling gasoline consumption.  EPA has claimed they can’t require oil companies to add more ethanol to a shrinking gasoline pool because of the so-called E10 blend wall. Under that logic, EPA’s ethanol blending volumes for 2017 should increase to statutory levels because gasoline use is on a steady rise and will set a new record this year.”

Mike Nichols, a farmer from Spencer County and president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association said, “The EPA has previously pointed to limited fuel infrastructure as one reason for failing to follow the law. Our corn farmers and the ethanol industry have responded. Over the past year, we’ve invested millions of dollars along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership to accelerate public and private investment in new ethanol pumps and fuel infrastructure right here in Indiana. Today, Hoosier drivers have more access to renewable fuel choices than ever. We call on the EPA to follow the law, do its job, and raise the ethanol volume to statute.”

“For months, EPA has been saying it plans to put the program ‘back on track.’ Today’s proposal fails to do that. The agency continues to cater to the oil industry by relying upon an illegal interpretation of its waiver authority and concern over a blend wall that the oil industry itself is creating. As a consequence, consumers are being denied higher octane, lower cost renewable fuels. Investments in new technology and advanced biofuels will continue to languish and greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles will be unnecessarily higher,” said  RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen in a prepared statement. “The real frustration is that EPA seems to be artificially constraining this market. The RFA has demonstrated just how easy it would be for obligated parties to reach the 15 billion gallon statutory volume for conventional biofuels next year. The fact is with rising gasoline demand, increased E15 and E85 use made possible by USDA’s infrastructure grant program, continued use of renewable diesel and conventional biodiesel more than 15 billion gallons will be used next year.”

Source: NAFB News Service