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EPA proposes 2018 RFS blending levelsEPA proposes 2018 RFS blending levels

Conventional ethanol level set at 15 billion gallons while advanced biofuel levels don’t account for market realities in biodiesel usage.

Jacqui Fatka

July 6, 2017

3 Min Read
ethanol plant with corn field in the front
Jim Parkin iStock

Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed 2018 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The total renewable fuel volume is proposed to be 19.24 billion gallons, while the proposed conventional biofuel amount of 15 billion gallons maintains the level set in the final RVOs for 2017. The proposal also calls for 4.24 billion gallons of advanced biofuel, including 238 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel.

By law, EPA is required to finalize the upcoming year’s mandates for conventional ethanol and most advanced biofuels by November 30 of the previous year. A public comment period is open following the release of the proposed volume obligations.

Those representing the ethanol industry applauded the proposed levels.

“Maintaining the 15-billion-gallon conventional biofuels level is good news for E15, motorists and farmers,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Assn. executive director Monte Shaw. “This proposal would keep the RFS on track and provide regulatory stability for ethanol producers, retailers and obligated parties alike.”

Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Assn., said the organization is pleased to see EPA pick up where last year’s RFS rulemaking left off and propose a rule that keeps the RFS on track for conventional ethanol production. “EPA’s proposal is good for farmers who are facing tough economic times and good for consumers who want affordable fuel choices that give us a cleaner environment,” he said.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor added information from the Department of Energy, as well as from the numerous retailers across the country selling higher biofuel blends confirms there is “no blend wall,” she said.

However, EPA did not increase the biofuel mandates for advanced biofuels, including biodiesel, which drew criticism.

The EPA proposal would maintain the minimum required biomass-based diesel volumes at 2.1 billion gallons for 2019. The EPA also proposed to set the 2018 RFS for advanced biofuels based on a minimum applicable volume of 4.24 billion gallons, a decrease from 4.28 billion gallons for 2017.

The National Biodiesel Board said it believes EPA should set the advanced-biofuel requirements for 2018 based on a volume of at least 5.25 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 at 2.75 billion gallons.

“The EPA should be committed to diversifying the diesel fuel market and prioritizing advanced biofuels. Targets like this ignore reality and the law, inhibiting growth in the industry,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the NBB.

“This proposal continues to underestimate the ability of the biomass-based diesel industry to meet the volumes of the RFS program,” Steckel said. “This is a missed opportunity for biodiesel, which reduces costs, provides economic benefits and results in lower prices at the pump. Higher advanced-biofuel and biomass-based diesel volumes will support additional jobs and investment in both rural economies and clean-energy-conscious communities."

“This is only a proposal, and, in the past, the EPA's final numbers have been higher than those in the proposal. We will continue to work with the EPA and ensure the administration doesn’t turn its back on our domestic energy producers,” Steckel noted.

Skor too also voiced a preference to see final levels for cellulosic and advanced biofuels continue to give producers and stakeholders certainty in their investment in second generation technology. 

POET, the largest domestic ethanol producer which also has made advances in expanding its cellulosic production, expressed concerns that the overall reduction in biofuel gallons will cool advances in cellulosic ethanol technologies.

CEO Jeff Broin said, “For the biofuels industry to grow, we need to see robust cellulosic ethanol production using multiple feedstocks from across the country, and the annual EPA volumes must keep our industry on that path. The final targets must provide the proper incentives to spur additional growth in production, innovation and the necessary fuel infrastructure.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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