EPA releases alternative fuel requirement plan for this year, next year

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency released Friday the long-awaited proposed volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard, with mixed reviews but also complaints from farm country politicians.

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency released Friday the long-awaited proposed volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard, with mixed reviews but also complaints from farm country politicians.

Officials said it was gratifying to see the EPA try to get the ethanol and biofuels requirements back on track, but said it took too long and didn’t go far enough.

The rule will be finalized by Nov. 30, after a public hearing in Kansas City, Kan., on June 25 and comments to the agency through July 27.

Volumes include:

  • Cellulosic biofuels: 106 million gallons for 2015 and 206 million gallons for 2016.
  • Biomass-based diesel: 1.7 billion gallons for 2015, 1.8 billion for 2016 and 1.9 billion for 2017.
  • Advanced biofuel: 2.9 billion gallons for 2015 and 3.4 billion for 2016.
  • Total renewable fuel: 16.3 billion gallons in 2015 and 17.4 billion in 2016.

An EPA official said the proposal would “drive growth at an ambitious but responsible rate,” while the ethanol industry said the volumetric requirements were an improvement on EPA’s earlier proposal, but not as big as they wanted.
“Today’s proposals are better than EPA’s initial proposed rule for 2014, but they still need significant improvement,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “We have sincere concerns that these proposed numbers are not moving forward to the degree that Congress had intended for the RFS.


“It is unfortunate that EPA chose to side with the obligated parties who have deliberately refused to live up to their obligation to provide consumers with a choice of fossil fuels or lower cost, higher performing, homegrown renewable energy at the pump,” Buis said. “Everyone in Congress, as well as all parties in the renewables and oil industry, knew when this legislation was debated and passed into law that the only way the RFS goals could be met was by introducing higher blends into the market moving forward. Now the obligated parties, controlled primarily by Big Oil, have refused to live up to their obligation and the initial read on EPA’s proposal is they have simply acquiesced to the demands of Big Oil.

“One thing that everyone should keep in mind is that this is a proposed rule,” Buis said. “We will continue to analyze and review these proposals for 2014, 2015 and 2016.”

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said, “I have been pressing the Obama Administration on the Renewable Fuel Standard for a long time, and while it’s good that the EPA is starting to get the RFS back on track, the proposal isn’t strong enough.

“In order to help break big oil’s monopoly on our nation’s transportation fuels, we still need more action. For example, the USDA’s announcement of $100 million in biofuels infrastructure funding is encouraging because it will give consumers more renewable fuel options at the pump. I will continue to fight for a strong RFS-one that will help cut our dependence on foreign oil, reduce our carbon footprint, increase demand for farm products, and create jobs in Minnesota and around the country,” Franken said.

U.S. Sen Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the EPA took far too long to release the proposal, hurting jobs and businesses in North Dakota.

“It’s a positive step that EPA today released biodiesel and ethanol target levels to get back on track and give producers needed certainty, but the levels set are below the levels that Congress laid out that our workers need,” she said in a statement. “While the USDA’s new investments will provide needed support for expanding our ethanol infrastructure, the lack of strong complementary support from the EPA is disappointing.”

House Ag Committee ranking member U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., called the proposal a “setback for rural America” and offered some of the most stinging criticism of the plan.

“I had hoped that the long period of time EPA took to make these announcements meant that they would get it right and follow the path set by Congress,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was a mistake to think the EPA could administer this program without screwing it up and this is yet another misguided announcement from the agency. Without a strong biofuels industry, we will never be able to reach our full potential when it comes to producing the next generation of homegrown biofuels.


“It’s disappointing. But it’s really not surprising,” said David Ripplinger, extension bioproduct/bioenergy economist at North Dakota State University, who’s followed the RFS debate closely. “This doesn’t do anything to further biofuels development ... I’m sure the oil and gas folks are happy, though.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “EPA has to be given some credit for attempting to get the RFS back on track by increasing the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) over time. But the frustrating fact is the agency continues to misunderstand the clear intent of the statute - to drive innovation in both ethanol production and ethanol marketing.

“Today’s announcement represents a step backward for the RFA,” Dinneen added.

“The EPA plan fundamentally places the potential growth in renewable fuels in the hands of the oil companies - empowering the incumbent industry to continue to thwart consumer choice at the pump with no fear of consequence for their bad behavior. That is not what the statute intended. And that is not what’s in the best interests of consumers - who will be denied greater access to the lowest cost liquid transportation fuel and octane source on the planet.”

Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a Maryland corn farmer, said, “Once again, the EPA has chosen to ignore the law by cutting the corn ethanol obligation 3.75 billion gallons from 2014 to 2016.

“This represents nearly a billion and a half bushels in lost corn demand,” Bowling said. “The Renewable Fuel Standard was working as intended, with no need to change. It has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, decreased our reliance on foreign oil, lowered gasoline prices for consumers, increased economic stability in rural America and spurred innovation in advanced and cellulosic biofuels.

“We are evaluating our legal options for defending the law and protecting the rights of farmers and consumers. We will fight to protect and build profitable demand for corn, which is of fundamental interest to NCGA and our farmers.”

The National Chain Restaurant Association said the volumetric requirements are still too high.


“Clearly the EPA is either incapable or unwilling to make the needed changes to the failed RFS,” the association said.

“Only Congress has the authority to pass legislation to repeal the corn ethanol mandate and end the litany of problems it has created.”

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