EPA issues final Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for ethanol

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Ethanol sign
Farm and Dairy file photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

In a required annual rulemaking, the Nov. 23 action finalizes the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018.

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

Renewable fuels

She said that by implementing the program, the EPA is expanding the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing the reliance on imported oil.

According to the EPA, non-advanced or “conventional” renewable fuel will increase in 2017, meeting the 15 billion-gallon congressional target for conventional fuels.

The advanced biofuel standard — comprised of biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, and other biofuel — increases 19 percent over the 2016 standard.

The total renewable fuel volume will grow 1.2 billion gallons from 2016 to 2017, a 6 percent increase.

Farm groups respond

Wesley Spurlock, Texas farmer and National Corn Growers Association president, said the decision was a step in the right direction.

“This is critical for farmers facing difficult economic times, as well as for consumers who care about clean air, affordable fuel choices, and lowering our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been one of America’s great policy success stories.”

The American Soybean Association, likewise, said the increases are encouraging, but said there is more opportunity.

“There are positive aspects to the volumes announced, with the overall RFS increasing and the total Advanced Biofuels portion being increased above the levels in the proposed rule.”

However, the ASA said it would still like to see additional support and promotion of domestically produced biodiesel, through higher volumes for the biomass-based diesel category.

“The levels announced today provide opportunities but also do not take full advantage of an opportunity to further promote a viable, domestically produced renewable fuel industry that is U.S. biodiesel,” said ASA President Richard Wilkins.

Other side

But not everyone was pleased with the increases, especially those who have lobbied against the RFS and spoken out on the downsides of ethanol.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants, in a statement, said “it is unconscionable that the EPA would double down on the outdated and broken biofuel law in the waning days of the current administration. …”

The restaurant council claims ethanol has done more harm than good, driving up the cost of food and causing market volatility that impacts both industry and consumers.

The American Petroleum Institute said the increases are “irresponsible” and costly for consumers.

The RFS is a requirement of the Clean Air Act, which requires EPA to set annual volume requirements for four categories of biofuels.

For more information on the announcement, visit https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/final-renewable-fuel-standards-2017-and-biomass-based-diesel-volume.

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