EPA proposes higher biofuel quotas for 2017 under the RFS

The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed higher renewable fuel quotas for 2017 across the board under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute officials separately said the May 18 announcement demonstrates the need for Congress to repeal or substantially reform the RFS.

EPA said the proposed increases would raise total US renewable fuel quotas by nearly 700 million gal from 2016 levels. Required volumes for cellulosic biofuel would climb 82 million gal to 312 million gal in 2017. Advanced biofuel quotas would rise by nearly 400 million gal to 4 billion gal year-to-year. Biomass-based biodiesel, which already has a 2 billion-gal quota for 2017, would increase to 2.1 billion gal in 2018, up 100 million gal.

The nonadvanced, or “conventional” fuels, portion of total renewable fuels—which requires a minimum of 20% lifecycle carbon emissions reductions—would increase 300 million gal between 2016 and 2017 and achieve 99% of the 15 billion gal congressional target. EPA added. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) said that this would require blending 14 billion gal of corn ethanol with gasoline.

EPA said it would hold a public hearing on the proposed quotas in Kansas City, Mo., on June 9, and accepted public comments until July 11.

“While we support EPA’s continuing use of its statutory waiver authority to reduce the unrealistic mandated biofuel volumes for 2017, the proposed volumes still go beyond marketplace realities,” AFPM Pres. Chet Thompson said.

“EPA’s proposal threatens to force consumers to use more biofuel than vehicles, engines, and fueling infrastructure can handle,” Thompson said. “This proposal provides more evidence that Congress should finally step in and repeal or significantly reform this broken program.”

Pushing higher ethanol blends

“Consumers’ interest should come ahead of ethanol interests,” API Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola said. “EPA is pushing consumers to use high ethanol blends they don’t want and that are not compatible with most cars on the road today. The administration is potentially putting the safety of American consumers, their vehicles and our economy at risk.”

Macchiarola said extensive tests by the auto and oil industries have found that E15 and other higher ethanol blends can damage engines and potentially force motorists to pay for costly repairs. “EPA’s proposal makes abundantly clear that the only solution is for Congress to repeal or significantly reform the RFS,” he said. “Members on both sides of the aisle agree this program is a failure, and we are stepping up our call for Congress to act.”

EWG said while the RFS is supposed to promote fuels that cut the emissions that cause smog and climate change, studies show that the increased use of corn ethanol actually results in more pollution. The law also encourages the illegal conversion of vulnerable prairie grasslands to grow corn, it added.

“The administration’s decision continues a wrong-headed policy that promotes a fuel that is bad for the environment, rather than pushing the market toward better renewable fuel options,” EWG Research Analyst Emily Cassidy said.

The Renewable Fuels Association, meanwhile, said EPA’s proposed 2017 biofuel quotas rely on an illegal interpretation of its waiver authority and concern over a blend wall that the oil industry is creating itself.

“As a consequence, consumers are being denied higher octane, lower-cost renewable fuels,” RFA Pres. Bob Dineen said. “Investments in new technology and advanced biofuels will continue to languish and greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles will be unnecessarily higher.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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