WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume on Nov. 30 at 18.11 billion gallons, including 3.61 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.
The RFS volume is 1.8 billion gallons, or 11% higher, than actual production volumes in 2014. The advanced biofuel requirement is 1 billion gallons, or 35% higher, than actual production in 2014, EPA said.
Along with the advanced biofuel requirement, the 2016 RFS calls for 230 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels and 1.9 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel.
The final requirements will boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry, EPA said. The final rule considered the many public comments EPA received on the proposal, and incorporates updated information and data. EPA is finalizing 2014 and 2015 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) that represent significant growth over historical levels.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) spoke out against the volumes, saying it will deepen uncertainty in the market place and have a chilling impact on second-generation biofuels. Of the 18.1 billion RFS, 14.5 billion gallons is undifferentiated biofuels or corn ethanol. That is below the 15 billion gallons statutorily imposed, and EPA has no authority to lower that number, RFA said.
“EPA’s decision today turns our nation’s most successful energy policy on its head,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and chief executive officer (CEO). “When EPA released its proposed RFS rule in May, the agency claimed it was attempting to get the program back on track. Today’s decision, however, fails to do that. It will deepen uncertainty in the marketplace and thus chill investment in second-generation biofuels. Unlike Big Oil, the ethanol industry does not receive billions in tax subsidies and the RFS is our only means of accessing a marketplace that is overwhelmingly and unfairly dominated by the petroleum industry. Today’s decision will severely cripple the program’s ability to incentivize infrastructure investments that are crucial to break through the so-called blend wall and create a larger market for all biofuels.”
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) agreed that any level below the statutory requirement would be a blow to the national economy.
“While we are pleased to see the EPA take a step forward and revise its original proposal, the fact remains that any reduction in the statutory amount will have a negative impact on our economy, our energy security, and the environment,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president and farmer from Maryland, U.S. It is unfortunate that Big Oil’s campaign of misinformation continues to carry weight in the court of public opinion, and in this decision.”
“The Renewable Fuel Standard has been one of America’s most successful energy policies ever. Because of it, our economy is stronger, we are more energy independent, and our air is cleaner. We should be strengthening our commitment to renewable fuels, not backing down,” Bowling said. “In light of the EPA’s decision, we are evaluating our options. We will fight to protect the rights of farmers and consumers and hold the EPA accountable.”
However, the American Soybean Association (ASA) said the volumes established by EPA will provide some certainty to biodiesel producers and feedstock providers and will continue to generate many benefits for consumers and the environment. As outlined in the comments submitted by the ASA in July, the benefits of biodiesel include a more diversified energy market; increased domestic energy production; reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; new jobs and economic development; expanded markets; and reduced soy meal feed costs.
While the volumes in the final rule do not fully capitalize on the capacity and growth potential of U.S. biodiesel, it does provide a step in the right direction, ASA said
“We are glad to see the volumes for biomass-based diesel increased above the Proposed Rule and previous proposals,” ASA President Wade Cowan said. “Biodiesel provides significant economic and environmental benefits and we have the capacity to do more. The Administration wants to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiesel can contribute more to that effort.”
Biodiesel is a domestically produced, renewable fuel that is proven to achieve emissions reductions ranging from 57% to 86% and is the first and only advanced biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide. Biodiesel has made up the vast majority of advanced biofuel production under the RFS to date.
“As an industry we have always advocated for RFS volumes that are modest and achievable and the biodiesel industry has met or exceeded the targets each and every year that the program has been in place,” Cowan said.
Accounting for approximately half of the feedstock used, soybean oil remains the largest source of oil for biodiesel production.