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Officials: Missed opportunity for advanced biofuels

MITCHELL, S.D. — An "enormous opportunity" to recognize advanced biofuels fell short Thursday, Nov. 30, according to the head of a South Dakota-based ethanol producer.

Poet CEO Jeff Broin responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Renewable Volume Obligations, of which the total renewable fuel standard to blend into the nation's gasoline supply was set at 19.29 billion gallons. That's a small bump from 19.28-billion-gallon standard from 2017.

That's ultimately a win for Poet and other ethanol producers. Earlier this year, the EPA was considering lowering the overall volumes used in the United States for 2018, but Thursday's announcement kept standards near this year's marks.

Still, ethanol producers and some agriculture groups wanted to see an increase for advanced biofuels. The EPA has proposed 4.29 billion gallons for next year, only slightly above the 4.28 billion level established in 2017. Advanced biofuels are comprised of ethanol from most anything other than corn that meets a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, such as soybeans and sugarcane. Under the guidelines, corn can not be considered an advanced biofuel.

"We will work with the Administration and EPA going forward to restore biofuel targets that will spur innovation in rural communities," Broin said.

Becky Pitz, general manager at Poet Biorefining in Mitchell, said the amount proposed by the EPA for starch-based biofuel was ideal, but the proposed amount for advanced biofuels was lower than expected. Next year's blending requirement for corn ethanol, a starch-based biofuel, was set at 15 billion gallons.

"As far as the advanced biofuels, a little disappointed. It could have been a few gallons higher," Pitz said. "But we will take it. We are making a lot of progress as a company, so overall we are pleased."

The volumes released will continue to support farmers in the area and stabilize the market, Pitz said. The more importance placed on biofuels, the more the demand will drive the price up for the market, which is favorable for farmers.

"It was really exciting to see and it tells us that the President and his administration believe in biofuel, that was fantastic," Pitz said.