Growth Energy laments EPA administrator Pruitt’s “about face” on RFS

In a Thursday 1 February interview with Fox News, US Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said that the country’s biofuel policy was in need of an overhaul.

The EPA administrator’s comments were in response to the recent bankruptcy of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest oil refiner on the East Coast. When announcing its bankruptcy, the oil refiner pointed to the Renewable Fuel Standard as being partially responsible for its financial troubles. Administered by the EPA, the RFS requires oil refiners to blend biofuels into the US fuel supply, or buy credits (Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs) from companies that do.

According to Reuters, Philadelphia Energy Solutions has spent $800 million on RINs to comply with the RFS since 2012, making it the company’s biggest expense after the purchasing of crude oil. The refiner operates two refineries – Girard Point and Point Breeze, in South Philadelphia, processing approximately 335,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

“We need RIN reform,” Pruitt said in the Fox interview, Reuters reports. “It is something I’ve talked to Congress about.”


‘About face’

Pruitt’s comments have angered the US’ ethanol industry. Emily Skor, CEO of ethanol trade association Growth Energy, told Biofuels International: “Administrator Pruitt’s recent comments completely contradict his own rule and repeated promises to support the letter and spirit of the RFS. His claim that RFS compliance is in any way is the cause of PES’s troubles is not only false, it is an about-face to now try and gut the most successful energy programme in American history.”

Late in 2017, the EPA announced the final required volume obligations under the RFS, setting a total renewable fuel blending obligation of 19.29 gallons, of which 4.29 billion gallons should be advanced biofuels including 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, and the remaining 15 billion gallons conventional biofuel.

At the time, Skor lauded the EPA for “standing up against efforts to destabilise the RFS.”

Regarding Pruitt's recent remarks, Skor noted they would seem to be inconsistent with the US presidency. “Mr. Pruitt’s current stance is also in direct contradiction to President Trump’s repeated and consistent promises to support the RFS, American farmers, and American energy security.”

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