EPA Doesn’t Change Corn Ethanol Target In Renewable Fuel Proposal

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), last Friday issued a proposed rule under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program that would set the minimum amount of renewable fuels that must be supplied to the market in calendar year 2020.

Among the proposal:
• “Conventional” renewable fuel volumes, primarily met by corn ethanol, would be maintained at the implied 15-billion-gallon target set by Congress.
• EPA is proposing an advanced biofuel volume requirement for 2020 of 5.04 billion gallons, which is 0.12 billion gallons higher than the advanced biofuel volume requirement for 2019.
• The cellulosic biofuel volume requirement of 0.54 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons for 2020 is based on the EPA’s production projection, which is 0.12 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons higher than the cellulosic biofuel volume finalized for 2019.
• EPA is proposing to maintain the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021 at 2.43 billion gallons.

The EPA’s proposal has failed to account for lost volume due to refinery exemptions and uphold President Trump’s commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), said the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

If the EPA continues to grant retroactive waivers, the proposed Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) numbers “are meaningless and the EPA is not following the law,” said Lynn Chrisp, a Nebraska farmer and NCGA president. “Farmers are facing a very tough economic environment and the continued waiver abuse chips away at farmers’ bottom line.”

Since early 2018, the EPA has granted 53 RFS exemptions totaling 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuel, the NCGA said. There are currently 38 pending petitions for 2018.

EPA’s proposal “doesn’t reflect the needs and capabilities of the domestic biodiesel and soybean industries and doesn’t seem to reflect President
Trump’s stated support and commitment to domestic biofuels and a strong Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Davie Stephens, a Kentucky soybean producer and president of the American Soybean Association.

“We will continue to voice our concerns and demonstrate the capabilities we have to contribute to stronger growth in domestic biodiesel, creating higher values for US soybeans, and all the economic, energy, and environmental benefits that come along with it,” Stephens said.

“This is yet another setback in a long string of setbacks for homegrown biofuels and the American family farmers who grow them,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “EPA and this administration have undermined the intent of RFS and destroyed demand for billions of gallons of ethanol.”

“It’s unacceptable that EPA would set biofuel volumes below demand at a time when farmers, biofuels producers and agribusiness owners are forced to shed jobs and close plants,” said US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
In other RFS-related news, US Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) recently introduced the RFS Integrity Act of 2019, which would require small refineries to petition for RFS hardship exemptions by June 1 of each year. This change would ensure that EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligations it sets each November, the senators said.

The bill also increases transparency by ensuring that key information surrounding small refinery exemptions is made publicly available. And it requires the EPA to report to Congress on the methodology it uses when granting small refinery exemptions, a process that has been repeatedly carried out behind closed doors with little to no congressional oversight, according to Fischer and Duckworth.

Also in Congress, US Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) last month introduced the Eliminating the RFS and Its Destructive Outcomes Act to repeal the RFS mandate.

“Since the RFS was created in 2005 there have been severe unintended consequences,” Rooney said. “For years the RFS has wreaked havoc on boat engines and other small engines which are vital to the Florida economy.” Also, ethanol-based fuels defeat the purpose of their stated environmental goals.

Most of the experts the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) interviewed for a recent report generally agreed that, to date, the RFS has likely had a limited effect, if any, on greenhouse gas emission

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