On April 9, 2015, the Pentagon released the Rocky Mountain/West Coast/Offshore Bulk Fuels Annual Buy (RMW) solicitation for biofuels on the FedBizOpps website. This purchase program supports the goal set by the Secretary of the Navy to have half of the Department of the Navy's energy come from alternative sources by 2020. Funding to defray additional biofuel costs for the RMW program is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Vendors can submit bids with at least 10 percent of alternative fuel up to the maximum allowed by JP-5 and F-76 specifications. The solicitation is for fuel deliveries from October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016, and proposals must be submitted by May 8, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. (EDT).
On April 1, 2015, the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich (R), signed the 2016-2017 Transportation Budget Bill (Sub. H.B. 53). The state transportation budget does not include a requirement on alternative fuel use in the state vehicle fleet, a requirement that had been in place since 2006. Ohio Department of Transportation's Matt Bruning stated that the requirement mandated the state increase the amount of alternative fuels each year with no cap in place, resulting in higher costs for the state, especially with the recent decrease in prices for traditional petroleum-based fuels. "It's not that we don't like alternative fuels -- it's just a cost thing, really," stated Bruning to WOSU Public Media. The loss of the biofuels mandate in Ohio will only impact fuels used by state vehicle fleets.
On March 26, 2015, Representative Todd Young (R-IN) introduced H.R.
1665, the Alternative Fuel Tax Parity Act, to amend the Internal Revenue Code
of 1986 to equalize the excise tax on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied
petroleum gas (propane). This legislation would attach federal tax
parities for LNG and propane to the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit (AFTC) that
currently covers alternative fuel mixtures, alcohol fuel, and biodiesel. The
AFTC has expired and is awaiting renewal. If H.R. 1665 is attached to the AFTC,
LNG and propane would be taxed based on their energy output rather than volume,
changing the tax on LNG from 24.3 cents-per-gallon to 14.1 cents-per-gallon and
the tax on propane from 18.3 cents-per-gallon to 13.2 cents-per-gallon. The
bill is intended to level the playing field by taxing LNG and propane at the
same energy based rate as gasoline. Gasoline is currently taxed at 18.3
On March 26, 2015, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley
(R-IA) introduced S. 899, the
Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015, a bill to provide
regulatory relief to alternative fuel producers and consumers. The bill would
require EPA to provide a volatility waiver to E15, allowing the higher ethanol
blend to be sold year round. Fuels have volatility limits in the summer to prevent
excess evaporation that results in smog. Some areas cannot obtain the
lower-volatility gas that would be able to be mixed with the ethanol and sold.
Because of this situation, E15 cannot be sold in the summer in some areas.
Also, to avoid consumer confusion and investment in infrastructure in a product
that has limited sales, many retailers choose not to carry E15 at all. A
similar waiver is already granted for E10 that allows the fuel to be sold
through the summer even if it exceeds volatility limits.
On March 30, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew
a Direct Final Rule for Partial Exemption of Certain Chemical Substances from
Reporting Additional Chemical Data. The direct final rule, issued
in January 2015, would have exempted manufacturers of six biobased diesel
chemicals from reporting processing and use information for the compounds under
the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. It resulted from a regulatory petition
filed by the Biobased and Renewable Advocacy Group (BRAG®). The EPA
decision to withdraw the rule was in response to a single comment posted during
the short comment period.
Kathleen Roberts, BRAG's Executive Director, stated: "Albeit
disappointing, the response is not unexpected given the strict procedures
associated with direct final rules. EPA has stated it plans to proceed with a
proposed rulemaking to list the chemicals soon and we will urge them to move as
quickly as possible. Our hope is EPA can complete the rulemaking process in
time for the next reporting CDR cycle, which starts in June 2016."
Until the new rule is completed, manufacturers of the six affected
biobased diesel chemicals should be prepared to submit processing and use
information under the CDR in 2016.
EPA is accepting public comments through May 26, 2015, on two
proposed information collection requests (ICR) published in the Federal
Register on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The proposed ICRs concern projected
cellulosic biofuels volumes and gasoline containing greater than 10 volume
percent ethanol up to 15 volume percent ethanol (E15). Comments received will
assist EPA as the agency prepares to submit the final ICRs to the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) for its official approval and dissemination.
In the first proposed ICR on "Cellulosic
Production Volume Projections and Efficient Producer Reporting,"
EPA is seeking to collect information from potential cellulosic biofuel
producers to aid in determining the annual volume standards. In the second
proposed ICR on "Recordkeeping
and Reporting Related to E15 (Renewal)," EPA is seeking
comment on recordkeeping and reporting items related to the legal use of E15 in
On March 12, 2015, Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA's Office
of Transportation and Air Quality, signed the Notice
Of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Avense) Oil for
Use in Biofuel Production. This notice states that biofuels
produced from pennycress oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced
biofuel when they are produced using typical fuel production process
technologies. The notice is the result of an analysis of the greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions that come from the production and transport of pennycress oil.
According to the analysis, pennycress oil has less than or equal GHG emissions
per ton of oil than soybean oil when accounting for crop inputs, crushing,
extraction, and direct and indirect land use change. Soybean oil and pennycress
oil are expected to also have the same fuel yield per pound of oil. This means
that pennycress oil-based biofuels could produce less GHG than soybean
oil-based biofuels. The notice has not yet been published in the Federal
Register, but once posted will be found at the soon to be opened Docket No.
EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091. Comments will be open for 30 days after publication.