EPA releases final 2017 renewable fuel quotas, draws industry fire

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced final renewable fuel quotas for 2017 that increased volume requirements from 2016 levels under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers each criticized the Nov. 23 move, and called on Congress again to substantially reform or repeal the RFS.

The new quotas apply to cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for calendar year 2017, and biomass-based diesel for 2018. Total renewable fuel volumes grew by 6% from 2016 levels, EPA said.

“Renewable fuel volumes continue to increase across the board compared to 2016 levels,” said Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation. “These final standards will boost production, providing for ambitious yet achievable growth of biofuels in the transportation sector.”

AFPM and API officials felt otherwise. “While we appreciate the difficulty of the task before EPA, the agency’s decision to increase the 2017 RFS volumes is completely detached from market realities and confirms once again that Congress must take immediate action to remedy this broken program,” AFPM Pres. Chet Thompson said on Nov. 23.

He noted that a decade has passed since quotas increased significantly under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, “and the cellulosic biofuels industry still has not delivered on its promise of commercially viable fuels.

“Despite this reality, EPA unfortunately finalized an RFS volume requirement that looks to force more biofuel in the fuel supply than consumers want or infrastructure can handle,” Thompson said. “Refiners should not have the responsibility to force consumers to use products they either don’t want or that are incompatible with their cars, boats, and motor equipment.”

‘Program is a failure’

API Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola called the new mandates a step backward. “Today’s announcement only serves to reinforce the need for Congress to repeal or significantly reform the RFS. Democrats and Republicans agree this program is a failure,” he said.

API supports HR 5180, which Reps. Bill Flores (R-Tex.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced this past spring, according to Macchiarola. The measure has 117 sponsors in the House, he indicated.

National Council of Chain Restaurants Executive Director Rob Green found it “unconscionable that EPA would double down on an outdated and broken biofuel law in the waning days of the current administration when nearly everyone except the ethanol makers, who benefit from the law, recognize that it is a total failure.”

Green said that EPA should have reduced the ethanol quotas instead, but continues to ignore clear findings from widely available data showing that the ethanol mandate does more harm than good. “From food retailers and environmental activists to anti-hunger organizations and government-waste watchdog groups, the consensus is clear that the ethanol mandate is broken,” he declared. “Congress created this monster, and members of Congress need to listen to their constituents and address this issue once and for all.”

EPA originally proposed the 2017 renewable fuel quotas last spring (OGJ Online, May 19, 2016). The current and income chairmen of API’s Downstream Committee came to Washington in mid-November and met with Flores and Welch as the trade association began a push to have the RFS changed during the 114th Congress’s lame-duck session (OGJ Online, Nov. 16, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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