By Kathleen M. Roberts
On July 18, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its proposed rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019. The rulemaking proposes the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel in 2019, as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post EPA Releases Proposed 2018 RFS Volume Requirements. The proposed volume requirements are:
- 238 million gallons for cellulosic biofuel in 2018, down from 311 million gallons in 2017;
- 4.24 billion gallons for advanced biofuel in 2018, down from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017;
- 19.24 billion gallons for renewable fuel in 2018, down from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017; and
- 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019.
These volumes would set the percentage standards at 0.131 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.34 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.62 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by August 31, 2017
While the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel is relatively small, many in the biofuels industry are concerned that it sends the signal to the market that the U.S. renewable fuel industry will no longer grow. The proposed volume requirements may undercut the Administration’s goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy and reviving U.S. manufacturing, despite President Trump’s repeated pledge to support the ethanol industry.
As previously reported in the BRAG blog post EPA Announces Public Hearing On RFS Program,
EPA will hold a Public Hearing for Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019 Under the RFS Program
to listen to arguments from all interested stakeholders to inform future rulemakings on the volume requirements. The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. on August 1, 2017
, in Washington, D.C. EPA has until November 30, 2017
, to issue the rulemaking in final.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard [RFS] Program: Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019 proposed rule. The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. on August 1, 2017, and will provide an opportunity for EPA to gather data, views, and arguments on the proposed rulemaking from interested stakeholders. While EPA does not plan to respond to presentations, the Agency may ask clarifying questions. EPA intends to use the information to inform a future rulemaking to reset the statutory volumes for cellulosic, advanced, and total biofuels pursuant to the Clean Air Act. In resetting the mandatory biofuel production requirements under the RFS program, EPA will need to review the implementation of the program during previous years and coordinate with the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Agriculture. Factors that EPA must consider in its analysis include:
- The impact of renewable fuels on the environment;
- The impact of the fuels on energy security;
- Production rates of fuels;
- Economic impacts of fuels; and
- The impact of renewable fuel on U.S. infrastructure.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On July 11, 2017, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued its June Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). EIA considered EPA’s recent rulemakings on the 2017 RFS volume requirements and proposed 2018 RFS volume requirements when developing its STEO for 2017 and 2018.
Biodiesel production averaged 101,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2016, and, according to EIA, is expected to increase to an average of 105,000 b/d in 2017 and to 109,000 b/d in 2018. Biomass-based diesel imports are expected to fall from 54,000 b/d in 2016 to 53,000 b/d in 2017 but rise to 59,000 b/d in 2018.
Ethanol production averaged 1.0 million b/d in 2016 and is expected to average slightly above 1.0 million b/d in 2017, which would be a record, but will likely decline slightly in 2018. Ethanol consumption averaged about 940,000 b/d in 2016 and is forecast to increase slightly in 2017 and 2018. As a result, the ethanol share of the total gasoline pool will increase to nearly 10.1% in both 2017 and 2018. Only marginal increases in higher-level ethanol blends are assumed to occur during the STEO forecast period.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On July 5, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued proposed volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019. The proposal lowers the blending requirement for all renewable fuel with the exception of biomass-based diesel, which maintains the 2017 blending requirement. The proposed volume requirements are:
Cellulosic biofuel, from 311 million gallons in 2017 to 238 million gallons in 2018;
Advanced biofuel, from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 4.24 billion gallons in 2018;
Renewable fuel, from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 19.24 billion gallons in 2018; and
Biomass-based diesel, 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 and 2019.
These volumes would set the percentage standards at 0.131 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.34 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.62 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel. The proposed rule will be open for comment for 45 days following the official publication in the Federal Register.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On April 24, 2017, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the renewable fuels and petroleum industries presented oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit regarding the petition to review the renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2014-2016. The petition, which was filed on January 8, 2016, by seven biofuel and agricultural groups, challenged EPA’s authority to set volume requirements for biofuel blending below standards put forth in the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) law. During the oral arguments, Samara Spence, a DOJ attorney, argued that insufficient infrastructure prevented EPA from setting a higher advanced biofuel standard in the 2014-2016 final rule. Seth Waxman, an attorney representing Americans for Clean Energy, argued that EPA misunderstood its authority under the statute. According to statements from the federal appeals court judges, scaling back the blending requirements may be viewed as an abuse of EPA’s authority.
In a joint statement in response to the oral arguments, the American Coalition for Ethanol, BIO, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association stated that they are “optimistic that the Court will honor Congress’ intent and remove these and other obstacles EPA has impermissibly erected to cleaner and more sustainable renewable fuels from entering the marketplace.” More information on the petition to review the RFS for 2014, 2015, and 2016 is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “Biofuel, Corn, And Sorghum Farmers Challenge Lowered RFS Volumes.”
On March 16, 2017, 23 Senators, including Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sent President Trump a bipartisan letter requesting that he maintain the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. In the letter, the Senators remind Trump that the RFS program was adopted to provide stability for renewable fuel producers and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that, to meet this goal, the point of obligation should be placed on refiners and importers. Shifting the point of obligation downstream would create little incentive for refiners to produce the necessary blendstocks, which would make downstream entities unable to comply. The letter outlines the detrimental effects that changing the point of obligation would have on refiners, blenders, marketers and retailers, and states that the proposed changes are broadly opposed by the majority of the transportation fuel market. The Senators acknowledge Trump’s commitment to the RFS program and state that they look forward to working with Trump to ensure the RFS program continues to aid in job creation and economic growth across the country.
On March 21, 2017, the renewable fuel volume requirements for 2017, which were issued in final by EPA on December 12, 2016, were implemented. The effective date for the 2017 requirements was delayed following the Presidential directive to postpone the implementation of new regulations to allow for review by the new administration. Although EPA has yet to publish an announcement on the matter, industry stakeholders have welcomed the 2017 biofuel volumes and 2018 biomass-based diesel volumes. As reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “EPA Publishes Final 2017 RFS Requirements,” the volume requirements are:
||311 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2017;
||4.28 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in 2017;
||19.28 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2017; and
||2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel in 2018.
On March 13, 2017, the South Dakota Farmers Union announced that the National Farmers Union had passed a resolution calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open the market to higher blends of ethanol during its annual meeting in San Diego. The resolution, which was brought forward by the South Dakota Farmers Union delegation, promotes the use of higher blended fuels, such as E30, as a way to expand the retail fuels infrastructure and support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
In addition to passing the resolution, the National Farmers Union filed legal comments regarding EPA’s overreach in its interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which limits ethanol content to 15 percent. Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union, called on EPA and all government regulators to reverse statements and policies that unfairly limit the amount of ethanol in fuel and stated that both the state and national organization continue to seek greater market access for higher blended fuels.
On March 2, 2017, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reintroduced the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reform Act, which aims to guide the debate and reform of the ethanol mandate. According to Goodlatte, the RFS program failed to lower prices at the pump and resulted in unintended and profound effects on consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, retailers, and the environment. The RFS Reform Act, which had 42 bipartisan cosponsors, would eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, place a ten percent cap on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline, require EPA to set cellulosic biofuels targets at levels produced by the industry, and decrease the total volume of renewable fuel content in gasoline sold or introduced into commerce from 2017 through 2022.