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RFS holdup continuesRFS holdup continues

McCarthy promises strong RFS going forward to address levels for multiple years.

Jacqui Fatka

March 27, 2015

2 Min Read
RFS holdup continues

THE Environmental Protection Agency said late last year it would not be finalizing 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) requirements before the end of 2014, and months into 2015, the top EPA official said she hopes to be sending some clearer signals "soon."

The RFS was designed to encourage investment in and use of renewable fuels, but in recent years, EPA's delay in releasing mandated blending levels has brought about increased uncertainty.

Speaking to the National Farmers Union convention, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, "The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren't able to accomplish what we needed to do last year. Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging."

She said the goal has been to make sure the RFS doesn't overestimate or underestimate what the blending levels should be, based on the facts available relating to supply and demand, as well as to create a platform to incentivize increased usage of biofuels.

Every year, EPA is taken to court for its rules, which McCarthy said makes it that much more prudent for the agency to be diligent with the information at its disposable to craft a rule that takes those facts into account.

She said the agency is most concerned about sending a long-term investment signal. The premise of the RFS law was to continue momentum going forward. "What we heard in 2014 was that we didn't get that quite right," she said.

So, now EPA is trying to establish levels for the next few years, as well as for 2014, that continue industry growth in a "reasonable and steady fashion," McCarthy said.

Although it may be taking a little longer than desired, McCarthy said a "partial solution (isn't) what I wanted to put on the table given where we are today."

She said EPA will look at ways to set a path for the future.

Gasoline consumption has been lower than expected due to weak economic growth. The oil industry has argued that the market is saturated at the traditional 10% blending rate for biofuels and that a lower RFS mandate is appropriate.

Under the 2007 law, conventional biofuels — basically corn-based ethanol — were assured of a 14.4 billion gal. share of the gasoline market in 2014 and 15 billion gal. of use annually starting in 2015.

Development of second-generation biofuels, which do not use food crops as feedstocks, has been slower than expected. The 2007 law anticipated that 5.5 billion gal. of advanced biofuels would be available this year, but actual production is much lower than that.

Volume:87 Issue:12

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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