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EPA Holds Steady on Biofuel Volumes for 2018
By Marc Heller
 
U.S. EPA will keep required renewable fuel volumes about even in the next year, the agency said today. Biofuel groups cheered the decision, while gas and oil interests are disappointed because they are opposed to the mandates.
 
“Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to meet the statutory deadlines and lead the Agency by upholding the rule of law,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a news release.
 
The agency set total renewable fuel levels at 19.29 billion gallons, including 15 billion gallons for conventional ethanol, which meets the congressional requirement in the renewable fuel standard.
 
Levels for other fuels included 4.29 billion gallons for advanced biofuel, 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in both 2018 and 2019, and 288 million gallons for cellulosic biofuel. Biodiesel levels are set a year ahead of other renewables.
 
EPA largely stuck to volumes it had proposed earlier this year, backing away from indications in September that it might scale back some of the numbers in a final rule (E&E News PM, Sept. 27).
 
Advocates for advanced biofuels and cellulosic ethanol said they were disappointed that EPA didn’t recommend bigger volumes. Although the agency has said it questions whether the industry can provide increased volumes, industry groups and their supporters say the administration is selling biofuel producers short.
 
“Congress intended for the RFS to drive growth in biofuels across all categories,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a statement. “Contrary to that goal, this final rule does little to encourage investment and growth in advanced biofuels.”
 
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which advocates for second-generation biofuel in addition to corn, said EPA’s decision “fails to recognize the enormous opportunity before us to harness our nation’s vast cellulosic resources for higher performing and lower cost fuels.”
 
Oil and gas companies, which have been lobbying for lower mandates, said EPA had been forced to implement a “broken” renewable fuel mandate that was originally intended to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported fuel — even as the United States has become less reliant on imports in recent years. High-ethanol fuels also aren’t safe for many older engines, the American Petroleum Institute said.
 
“So this program is trying to solve a problem that no longer exists while creating real problems for consumers,” said Frank Macchiarola, downstream director for the API.
 
EPA’s announcement leaves the landscape largely unchanged as dueling sides in the renewable fuels debate fight over the mandate’s future. The arguments have especially high stakes for backers of cellulosic biofuel and similar renewables that have played a secondary role to corn.
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