EPA releases RFS volumes

EPA returns to Congressional intent of increasing renewable fuel production and use over time.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a new proposed rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) numbers for 2014 through 2016, which the agency said the volumes are below the volumes originally set by Congress, but would increase renewable fuel use in the U.S. above historical levels and provide for steady growth over time.

EPA is proposing to set the renewable fuel standards for 2014 at the levels that were actually produced and used as transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel in the contiguous U.S. and Hawaii. For 2015 and 2016, EPA is proposing “ambitious increases in both advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel in comparison to 2014 levels.” This proposed rulemaking also provides an evaluation of the expected volumes of cellulosic biofuel for 2015 and 2016, and proposes annual increases in the required volume of biomass-based diesel for 2015, 2016, and 2017.

These proposed volumes would allow volumes of conventional (non-advanced) renewable fuel of up to 13.25, 13.40, and 14.00 billion gallons to be used to satisfy the total renewable fuel requirements for years 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively.

Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, said the rule aims to balance the two dynamics of Congress’ clear intent to increase renewable fuels use over time and the real world circumstances that have slowed the adoption. She said the final levels drive growth at an “ambitious, yet responsible rate.”

The proposal uses a combination of two authorities to reduce volumes of both advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address two important constraints. The first is limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them. The second is on limitations in the ability of the industry to produce sufficient volumes of qualifying renewable fuel, particularly non-ethanol fuels, EPA said.

Most of the growth in target levels for 2015 and beyond comes from advanced biofuels. McCabe outlined that for 2016 for example, the cellulosic level calls for six times the 2014 actual volume levels. Biodiesel also calls for significant increases, reaching 1.9 million gallons by 2017, 27% higher than 2014 levels.

The American Soybean Assn. said while the volume levels for biodiesel do provide some improvement, it still does not “fully recognize or capitalize on the capacity and further growth potential of U.S. biodiesel.”

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open for public comment until July 27, 2015.

Tom Buis, chief executive officer of Growth Energy, said the proposals are better than EPA’s initial proposed rule for 2014, but they still need significant improvement. Since the rule is still a proposed rule, Buis said Growth Energy will continue to analyze and review the proposals for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack also announced May 29 that UDSA would provide $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership. Specifically, USDA will administer competitive grants to match funding for state-led efforts to test and evaluate innovative and comprehensive approaches to market higher blends of renewable fuel, such as E15 and E85. States that are able to provide greater than a one-to-one ratio in funding will receive higher consideration.

McCabe noted that infrastructure funding such as USDA’s money for improving access to flex fuel pumps is an important aspect of helping grow volumes of renewable fuels.

Volumes used to determine the proposed RFS percentage standards*

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

 

-Million gal.-

Cellulosic biofuel

33

106

206

N/A

Biomass-based diesel

1,630

1,700

1,800

1,900

Advanced biofuel

2,680

2,900

3,400

N/A

Total renewable fuels

15,930

16,300

17,400

N/A

*All volumes are ethanol equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel, which is actual.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency.

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