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EPA proposes RFS volume requirements, industry responds

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued proposed volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard programme for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel for 2019.

Biomass-based diesel volume standards have also been proposed for 2020. The biomass-based diesel standard for 2019 was set at 2.1 billion gallons in 2018

The proposed volume requirements for cellulosic ethanol are 381 million gallons for 2019, up from 288 million gallons for 2018. Advanced biofuel meanwhile, has a volume requirement of 4.88 billion gallons for 2019, up from 4.29 billion gallons for 2018. Biomass-based diesel has a proposed requirement of 2.43 billion gallons for 2020.

The total renewable fuel volume is proposed to be 19.88 billion gallons, while the proposed conventional biofuel amount of 15 billion gallons maintains the level set in the final RVOs for 2018.

 

What does it all mean? The biofuels industry responds

A number of key players in the biofuels industry have responded to the EPA’s proposed volume requirements.

“The EPA proposed 15 billion gallons for conventional biofuels, but that still isn’t a real number we can count on,” said Emily Skor, CEO of US ethanol trade association Growth Energy.

“This plan fails to ensure those gallons will, in fact, be blended. By neglecting to reallocate gallons lost to waivers, the EPA is doubling down on another year of an estimated 1.5 billion gallons in demand destruction.”

Skor also made reference to the ongoing controversy concerning waivers for oil refiners from their obligations under the RFS.

“The proposed RVOs also fail to restore the volumes lost to waivers for 2016, despite a court ruling last July that requires EPA to restore 500 million gallons of biofuel demand. The EPA cannot continue to enrich the largest oil companies and refiners at the expense of struggling US farmers.”

Skor continued: “Keeping the RFS on track is the right thing to do – not only for America’s farmers but for the future of clean energy. Americans are breathing cleaner air every day, thanks to the RFS. As a nation, we must not lose sight of what the RFS was designed to do, and we urge the EPA to follow through on the president’s pledge for year-round sales of E15 and to restore the gallons that have been lost due to refinery exemptions.”

The Renewable Fuels Association, also a US ethanol trade association, has taken a similarly less than enthusiastic view for the EPA announcement, describing it as a 'blow for farmers and ethanol producers', and suggesting EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had ‘buckled’ to pressure from the oil industry.

“This RVO proposal is a paean to missed opportunities for the sole purpose of benefiting the oil industry that continues to thwart the development of biofuels at every turn,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“EPA needs to stop tilting to the whims of the oil industry in implementing the nation’s renewable fuel program, and work to create demand for ethanol, lowering prices at the pump for consumers and creating economic opportunities for farmers across the country,” Dinneen continued.

 

A more positive light?

Elsewhere, the EPA’s new proposal has been taken more positively. The National Biodiesel Board, the trade association for the US biodiesel sector, sees the volumes as a potential boost for the industry.

“We welcome the Administration’s proposal to grow the biodiesel volumes, following two flatlined years. This is a positive signal for our industry and we’re pleased the EPA has acknowledged our ability to produce higher volumes. We’ve consistently demonstrated that we can do much more,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs at NBB.

Kovarik was still quick to stress the importance of stability in the RFS. “The fact remains, though, instability in the RFS program caused by the EPA has done significant damage that can only be rectified for biodiesel through consistent and predictable growth in volumes,” he said.

Major renewable fuel producer Neste, which has recently made significant inroads into the US market, is among the most welcoming of the EPA proposals.

The EPA calls for an almost 600 million gallon increase in the advanced biofuel category in 2019. Neste’s My Renewable Diesel is able to meets the requirements of an advanced biofuel in the biomass-based diesel category and is therefore able to compete for a share of the additional advanced biofuel volume.

“We appreciate the EPA's commitment to advanced biofuels. Neste MY Renewable Diesel is an ideal low-carbon fuel to meet the US renewable fuel standards, as it is fully compatible with existing fuel distribution systems,” said Kaisa Hietala, executive vice president of Neste Renewable Products business area.